2016 in Review.

2016!! Wait, really quick let me check to make sure nobody else has died and no more demagogues with rampant Twitter addictions have been elected. We're good? Ok. 

2016!!!

I loved 2016. 2016 was my "year of yes," and 2016 kicked ass in so many ways as a result. On our flight home from San Francisco yesterday, my all-time favorite song came on my shuffle, and I found myself dancing in my seat a little bit despite the baby wailing behind me. Because I get profound at this time of year, it blew me away listening to some of the lyrics...words about frenemies, self-doubt, "this whole damn world" falling apart...seems like they somehow knew 2016 was coming from way back in 1998.

The chorus, though, is my favorite: "you've got the music in you." The music in you? This year, for me, that proved true in every way. As cheesy as it sounds, this has been a year of music, joy, and sheer magic in my life - traveling to new and exciting places. Spending the best times with my family. Laughing my ass off with old friends and making such quality new friends. Killing it at work, on my board, and in the Twin Cities social and philanthropic circles I've started to join. I've utterly loved almost every moment. 

Without further ado, a recap: 

Traveled 

Arizona, literally first thing in 2016. We landed only 2 hours into the New Year to attend the Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix, and stuck around for sunshine, palm trees, and a Grand Canyon road trip. All said and done, an awesome way to start the year with some fantastic friends. 

London in February for a busy week of work and teaching trainings, but also for beautiful weather, a weekend of solo exploring and theater, and lots of fun visiting old favorites. That city will always and forever be my favorite place in the world, and a home to me near or far.

Ohio, twice - once for a quick visit in April with my mama bear, and once for Jonathan's graduation! With zero Schwegsibs in the state anymore, I'm sad to be saying goodbye to Miami University and Cincinnati with all her charms in 2017. 

Chicago, a whopping three times...with plenty more to come! From stops at Palmer House and Au Cheval this spring, to Laura's hilarity-and-frosé-soaked birthday weekend, and of course our "Hamilton"palooza in November, the Windy City is capturing my heart now more than ever. With Laura and Em both calling it home, there are sure to be many 2017 trips in my future! 

Iceland with the fam for a few days of stunning exploration...geysers, waterfalls, hiking, lagoon-ing, and general awe at the beauty of the country. 

Sweden, to immerse ourselves in Stockholm's historic charm and warm, open culture! Getting lost in Old Town Gamla Stan, trying the weirdest foods I've ever eaten in Normalm, scoping out sunken Viking ships and taking sailing trips...all with a liberal side helping of wine and my Schwegfam.

Norway, to fall in love with a country harder and faster than I ever have before. Between the enchantment of Oslo and the sheer unmitigated, wild beauty of the western fjords, I foresee Norway being a country I'll visit again for sure. 

South Bend, for my first Notre Dame football game since 2013! With a motley cast of friends and family, I drank plenty of rosé, toasted to Knute Rockne at his grave, paid the Grotto a 2am visit, and celebrated a squeaker of a win over Miami. Love thee Notre Dame, always and forever!

Iowa and Fargo on a crazy weekend road trip with Hal and Matt...barbecue and beer in Decorah before Luther College Christmas, and losing my shit over Fargo's charm and surprising coolness with Michael. Best weekend of spontaneity ever. 

California, for Christmas with my family in wine country. We explored San Francisco, took a Christmas Day walk in Muir Woods, and tasted wine to our hearts' content all over Napa and Sonoma. 

Celebrated

My 27th birthday with a giant party at my old apartment, less than 24 hours after touching down from London. What does a newly-minted late-20s lady do when jet-lagged and trying to party? Double-fist wine and coffee with a healthy side of jello shots, duh. Bonus points to the lovely Erin for braving Minnesota cold to celebrate with us! 

The Kentucky Derby and Labor Day with the Lakeville crew. Things never cease to get crazy with this group, and I've come to love it so much...despite the fairly brutal hangovers that occasionally ensue. Mint juleps and Team Kenya for LIFE. 

Jonathan's graduation, on a frigid weekend in Oxford, OH! Bar-crawling and partying with his frat brothers, freezing our butts off at his commencement ceremony, and topping it all off with a celebratory dinner at Sotto in Cincinnati. So proud of the last of the Schwegman kids!! 

Galas - innumerable galas. From the stunning Diamond Anniversary Ball at the Minnesota Orchestra and the Minnesota Opera's season opener, to benefits for Como Zoo and Feed My Starving Children, this year was black-tie mandatory for me and I loved it. Closing the year down tonight with the Orchestra's New Year's Gala, appropriately! 

Weddings and showers and bachelorettes galore! Mollie and Kellen, Eva and Josh, and Erin and Josie provided ample opportunities to dress up, drink up and celebrate love and marriage. Can't wait for next year's busy wedding season to kick into high gear, starting in just over a month! 

Favorites

Moving in with Hal this May...while both of us are gone so much that our two-bedroom might as well be a one-bedroom, life when we're both around has been even more joyful than expected. Gossiping about work, life, and the future, listening to him sing, and cementing a stronger friendship has been a highlight of 2016.

Yoga! Never would have thought that I'd join the ranks of the Namaste brigade, but after a sunrise session with Hannah at Lake Harriet I've practiced happily (if sporadically). I'm already looking forward to taking classes more regularly as the year turns. 

Bridesmaiding for the first time for Eva's wedding! Spending the better part of the last year planning events with Claire and Kyla was a delight...from the shower and the bachelorette, to shopping for dresses and of course spending the whole weekend of her wedding together, we had an absolute blast. 

Another year immersed in the arts...with over 30 ticketed events in the 2016-2017 seasons, I've seen incredible orchestral performances, taken a dive into the opera world, and fallen in love with the Guthrie all over again. Highlights? Adele in July and, of course, "Hamilton" in November! 

Family

The Eurotrip was the undoubted highlight of the Schwegfam year this year - getting to plan a trip to places none of us had been was a challenge that paid off in spades. With perfect weather, stunning scenery, and an itinerary we carefully collaborated to create, traveling as a family of 5 for the first time since I was in high school created adult memories I'll treasure forever.

Similarly, the Calitrip we just returned from marked a departure from a traditional Christmas at home that we all loved. Refocusing on being present instead of giving each other presents added a completely different dimension to the holiday. Plus, all the wine didn't hurt! 

Jonathan being home for a few extra months over the summer was so fun for my parents and me. We loved having him around to boat, hit up happy hour, and spend quality time together...even if it led to extensive dental repair work ;)

In other sibling news, we celebrated new jobs and new cities for both Emily and Jonathan! September found Emily relocating to Chicago for a role with a different design firm, and Jonathan made the move to Detroit to start his marketing career in November. I miss them both dearly but am so happy that they're each thriving in their new cities and career steps!

In summary: 

"You get what you give" truly is the best way to sum up this year. I gave 2016 everything I had...a true balls to the wall, no holding back, yes-to-everything approach...and what I got back was a year of unparalleled adventures and new experiences. Looking back on the chaos of this year for the world, I think I'll selfishly always remember that, though my life at times looked just as chaotic, this year was one in which I gave it my all, and got back a year for the record books. 

For more highlights, press play (and giggle at my oh-so-topical song choice)!

Bookworm: December 2016

“The almanac had a strange, soapy smell and made a cracking noise like fire as she turned the pages. She’d never been the first person to open a book.” 
― Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad

Loved: 

The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood: This was one of those books that left me feeling incredibly icky and uncomfortable while reading because it was so immersive and so darn scary. Set in a dystopian society in which women have no rights to own property, read or even reproduce without state control, it was classic Margaret Atwood in every way. (#10 of 101 in 1001 #70...)

Bring Up The Bodies, Hilary Mantel: Told from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's secretary and general show-runner, the sequel to Wolf Hall chronicles the fall of Anne Boleyn with stunning and evocative prose and incisive commentary on the nature of power and gender in the 1500s. 

Still Star-Crossed, Melinda Taub: A sequel of sorts to "Romeo and Juliet," set in Verona in the month immediately following their double suicide. This one kept me interested solely because I've never really gotten over R&J since reading it for the first time in sixth grade...plus, every chapter starts with a few lines that look like prose but are really in iambic pentameter, and that made me happy. 

When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi: I can't believe it took me this long to read this smash hit of 2016. Kalanithi's impassioned, gorgeously-written saga of being a neurosurgeon dying of lung cancer with brain metastases was easily one of my top five of the year. The story, though heart-rending, is searingly honest and handles life, death, and everything in between with grace and humility. A true, honest-to-God must-read. 

Enjoyed: 

King's Fool, Margaret Campbell Barnes: Another Tudor novel, this time from the perspective of Will Somers, Henry VIII's official jester/fool. Written in the 1940s or 50s, the novel was a refreshing change of pace from the currently-trendy "sexy sex and lying lies in the Tudor court" thing.

The Traveler's Gift, Andy Andrews: A good, light reminder this season to stay focused on what's important...this novel tells the story of a man in despair and how a car crash/mysterious encounters with major historical personages teach him to live his life with grace and intention. A bit cheesy, but a warm-ish fuzzy-ish general feel-gooder.

Tolerated: 

You'll Never Blue Ball in This Town Again, Heather McDonald: Eh. It's by a writer on Chelsea Handler's show, and maybe that's why I didn't find this memoir of a 27-year-old virgin's sexcapades to be particularly funny. That said, it was a super-fast read, and for those of you with better-developed senses of humor than me, it'd probably be great...

The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead: This was an absolutely incredible book. Let me just say that. I only tolerated it because I read it at absolutely 100% the wrong time...wine country is not the setting for a brutal story of slavery and escape. Plus the iBooks download was missing SEVERAL pages and that irrationally bothered me. I highly recommend this - but only if you're in the mood for something seriously heavy. 

Re-reads: 

Eligible, Curtis Sittenfeld: A modern re-telling of "Pride and Prejudice" set in Cincinnati. Jane is a yoga instructor, Liz writes for a magazine, Darcy is a neurosurgeon, and it's all very Millennial and magical and I love it so much. Super long, too - perfect for an hours-long plane ride!

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P, Adelle Waldman: I love this because every time I read it it makes me feel a little less shitty about my love life. Nathaniel - Nate - is a self-centered prick of a thirtysomething in Brooklyn who just can't treat a girl right...but the story is so much more than that. About how two people who seem to have it all just can't seem to make it work, and there's something in that which resonates deeply with me. 

Schwegs and Swedish Ships

Things Schwegfam Likes: Boats. And we spent a more-than-proportional amount of time on them in Stockholm, a city built over 14 islands! 

During our walking tour with Tours by Locals, we took the Stockholm Ferry over to the Vasa Museum to start our morning. 

Jonathan's inner monologue: "God, I haven't had a glass of wine for like twelve hours at this point. This is bullshit." (We did a LOT of cocktailing/wining on that trip...apparently it's a trend for us!)

Stockholm couldn't be lovelier from the water...I really adored the architecture and gorgeous reflections. 

The Vasa Museum holds a ship that was built in the 1600s for a Swedish king as the centerpiece of his fancy navy. Though the shipbuilders knew it wasn't seaworthy, the king insisted on hosting a huge launch of it. Having sailed under 1500 yards, the ship foundered and sank right in the Stockholm canal, where it stayed buried in mud until a crew of scientists and engineers raised it in the 1960s, almost totally intact. 

Photos don't do it justice, and the museum built around the ship's dry-dock was incredibly informative and well-done. We spent a little under two hours there and I'd highly recommend it to anyone visiting Stockholm! 

That evening, we went for a sunset cruise on Lake Malaren! It's sort of the Gold Coast of Stockholm, home to stunning summer escapes and the Royal Family's preferred residences. 

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As mentioned, we drank a fair amount of wine on this trip...including on boats.

We spent several hours on board, taking in the sights...

...and getting out our giggles. 

Eventually we made it to Drottningholm Palace, the actual residence of the Swedish king and queen. Dick's commentary: "Man, this place would be a perfect lake home if it only had some tiki torches." 

We turned and cruised home after spending some time chilling at Drottningholm Pier, taking in the castle views. 

Stockholm, you're beautiful. 

Stay tuned for more Scandinavia! 

Gamla Stan, Stockholm

We left Iceland after several days of perfect weather just as the rain arrived, and chased the sunshine to Stockholm, Sweden. As with Reykjavik, we didn't really have an idea of what to expect when we arrived, short of the excessive Pinterest board Em and I had put together. 

Almost as soon as we started exploring, we headed to Gamla Stan, Stockholm's famous "old town," and immediately fell head over heels for the neighborhood. 

A rainbow of charming houses, gabled roofs, romantic churches, and the narrowest cobbled streets and alleyways...a confluence of charm and history that completely won me over. All under the bluest skies! 

Our first full day in Stockholm was Swedish National Day, Sweden's equivalent of the Fourth of July, and the town was decked out accordingly. In addition, many of the museums and the Royal Palace were open to the public for free!

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We had booked a walking tour of Stockholm with a local guide through Tours By Locals, which was one of the best decisions we made all trip. Our guide, Caroline, was totally my kind of person - super into history, architecture, and the Swedish Royal Family (duh, I loved her). 

After a morning at the Vasa Museum (more to come later), she took us through Gamla Stan, pointing out highlights like Nobel Square and the narrowest street in Stockholm along the way.

Then it was off to the Royal Palace to fight the crowds and check out how it stacked up to Buckingham!

The Swedish Royal Family only lives in the downtown palace part-time - their actual homes are all scattered around Lake Malaren, just outside Stockholm. The main palace is more ceremonial, but it also comes with these babes: 

Sup boo? I like your hat!

We didn't go too camera-crazy inside due to the hordes of tourists also taking advantage of free admission, but the palace was everything I think a royal palace should be: dripping in gold, chandeliers, and paintings of famous dead kings (mostly named Carl and Gustav). I loved it. 

After a full day of exploring, we said goodbye to Caroline and headed to indulge in our favorite Schweg pastime: a mid-afternoon cocktail, this time at Ebenist on Nobel Square! 

Scenery that can't be beat, frizz that can't be tamed. Yours truly was a happy camper. If I came back to Sweden, I'd 100% stay in Gamla Stan - such an enchanting way to start the Swedish part of our Scandinavia trip! 

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More to come soon! 

The Holiday 101 in 1001 List!

I have just over six weeks of my 101 in 1001 challenge left, and am powering through checking a few last items off my list! The holidays were a surprisingly perfect time to hammer through some philanthropic items, as well as a few fun little adventures! 

First, I checked off #45, Participate in a Holiday Adopt-A-Family. I had a hard time finding an organization in the Twin Cities that allowed a group to adopt a whole family...it seems like things have gone more toward the "general donation" model around here. Fortunately, South Bend still allows full adopt-a-family, and the Notre Dame Piccolos always adopt a family!

This year, they opened it up to alums and shared details in our private Facebook group...because naturally the piccs have our own group. Our funds supported an adorable family with 4 kids: Sariah (9, girl), Jean (7, boy), Julien (7, boy), and Seline (4, girl). Per FB, the girls both love Frozen and Barbies (who doesn't really!?), and the boys both love Star Wars and Legos. The section also them all warm clothes, pajamas, and socks for Christmas.

With Venmo to streamline payment, putting my money where my mouth was couldn't have been easier! 

Next up: #87, Send Christmas Cards! 

I went a little nuts in Emily McDowell's amazing online shop (seriously, I want everything they sell), and ordered three different options, plus a special inside-joke card for Kait. 

During the polar vortex, I stayed in all weekend, recovered from the plague that had completely knocked me out, and wrote cards in bed with Netflix holiday movies on in the background. 

Then I kind of blacked out in PaperSource last week and ended up walking out with, among dozens of other things, a stamp, gold ink, and stickers that matched my cards shockingly well. I stamped stamps, stuck stickers, and addressed envelopes to my heart's content. 

And boom! In the mail and headed to my friends' homes right in time for Christmas!

In other fun items, I checked off #92, See "The Nutcracker," with Jodester last weekend! The State Theatre in downtown Minneapolis is one of the prettiest historic venues in the Twin Cities, and couldn't have been a lovelier venue for Loyce Houlton's "Nutcracker Fantasy."

Jodester and I had a blast checking out the hundreds of darling little girls dressed up in their Christmas best, making fun of flamboyant Uncle Drosselmeyer (who creepily inserts himself in EVERY SCENE being creepy), and marveling at the ballet. A perfect way to escape the Polar Vortex!

One of the items on my list that I wasn't sure how to check off was #46, Donate time or money to a charity initiative for veterans or soldiers. When I stumbled across Wreaths Across America this November, I knew it was the perfect way to give back. My mom takes pride in making sure that my grandparents' graves have flowers or wreaths on them year-round, and as my grandpas are both vets, this cause was near and dear to my heart. 

While I only donated this year, I'd love to actually participate in the wreath-laying at Fort Snelling next year. Such a cool cause! Please consider checking it out and donating if you're interested!

Finally, another great donation opportunity arose in checking off #50, Volunteer or donate through the ND-MN Alumni Club! Every year, the Club sponsors a Christmas party in collaboration with Centro, a Twin Cities charity that serves more than 7,000 Latino-Americans. The party alone is host to 1200 Centro parents and children, and takes a massive effort from ND alums and families to put on every year. 

I've participated in the past, but I couldn't this year (again due to my lovely malingering illness. Instead I made a donation online, and am looking forward to participating in years to come! 

Here's to the festive season, friends - a great time to spread cheer, have fun, and give back. Happy holidays!