Welcome to our website

We are getting married on October 10th 2009. The wedding will be at St. Francis Xavier Church at 3pm. Afterwards there will be a reception at Sunset Ridge Country Club. Both are in the North Shore region of Chicago.

Thank You!

This past weekend, I was treated to a lovely bridal shower, as well as a fantastic bachelorette party!  Thanks to everyone for the gifts, kind wishes, and amazing company!!! You are all so generous, and I feel so fortunate to have such a fantastic group of friends and family members!

Things to do in Chicago (proper)

OK, let's first get one thing straight.  I am going to forget about a lot of things here!  Chicago is a huge and wonderful city, and there is *so* much to do, that I can't possibly list it all here.  But I will do my best to list a few of the things that I love!

Siteseeing
If you are just coming up for the wedding, and want to get a glance at some of the amazing architecture the city has to offer, I strongly suggest you take Lake Shore Drive instead of I-94.  It will take you longer, but it is a great view.  I fall in love with the city pretty much every time I drive the road.  If you're driving back Sunday this might be impossible b/c of the Marathon, though.

My opinion here is completely unbiased; Chicago has the most impressive skyscrapers in the world.  Sure, some other countries may have us beat on height now, but the overall skyline is far superior!  So if you have the time, go up the Sears (ugh... Willis) Tower. It is a little pricey, but it *is* the tallest building in America (North and South), and the third largest in the world.  They also recently put in a new observation deck that you can walk out on and look straight down through a glass floor.  I am interested to try it.

To see some of the other architecture, take an architectural river cruise.  The river itself is a feat of engineering (they reversed the flow!), and you can see some fabulous buildings!

For the oldest building in Chicago, head over to the 800 block of Michigan Avenue and check out the water tower.   Built in 1869, just two years before the Chicago Fire, it was one of the only buildings to survive the blaze. 

There are also several parks to check out; Lincoln, Millennium, and Grant are the big three.  Lincoln park features a zoo (which is free!), a nature center, a canal, and many yuppies.  Millennium Park is where you will find the bean (officially known as "Cloud Gate"), and the Pritzker Pavillion.  Grant Park is home to Buckingham Fountain (featured prominently in the intro to Married With Children), as well as some beautiful gardens, picnic areas, etc.

Sports / Fitness / Recreation
To be honest, I am not aware of many places to work out or play sports in Chicago, especially not those that are open to the public.  I would check out the parks; there are some good running trails along the lake. 

For recreation, head to Navy Pier, where there are some carnival rides, including a very tall Ferris Wheel (which is appropriate, since the Ferris Wheel was invented for the 1893 Columbian Exposition (World's Fair) in Chicago (Pabst Blue Ribbon was also created for this event!).  It is a generally fun place to go!

Spectator sports in October include possible pre-season basketball (Go Bulls!), hockey (Blackhawks play the Flames on Monday, the 12th... which is Columbus Day for people looking for an excuse to take a day off!).  There are no football games going on during that weekend, and baseball will either be finished or nearly finished.  The Chicago Marathon is on Sunday; go watch the amazing Kenyan runners who sprint the whole thing. 

Arts / Culture

Fine Arts
The Art Institute of Chicago is an absolute must-see.  Seriously, their impressionist collection rivals the Musee D'Orsay in Paris.  None of this crap with a single haystack (ahem... grainstack), because, seriously... what's the point? but I digress.  If you like Monet, Manet, Renoir, etc., it would be wrong to miss it.  If you like post-impressionism, modernism, surrealism, cubism, fauvism, tubism, expressionism, or any other -ism, it is a good bet that you will find something you like there as well.

If contemporary art is your schtick, you should also check out the Museum of Contemporary Art, where the expressionism is much more abstract, and the modernism is much more post.  Though the MCA might not suit fans of more traditional art, the work is extremely high-caliber, and very thought provoking; I absolutely love the place!

Other Museums
If you love dinosaurs, shrunken heads, and pirates (!) head to the Field Museum of Natural History.  This is one of my favorite places; it is huge, and super cool (or maybe I'm just a nerd!).  The building itself is gorgeous, it is similar to many of the palaces in Europe. 

For aquatic life, check out the Shedd Aquarium/Oceanarium (another beautiful building!) next door.  I love the sea horses!  Walk just a bit further, and you can hit up the Adler Planetarium and view some simulations of space, or check out the observatory.

Farther south, the Museum of Science and Industry is a lot of fun; they have tons of really quirky exhibits, including, but not limited to baby chick hatcheries, fairy castles, and WWII submarines.   

Performing Arts
Chicago has numerous theatre production, including Shakespeare and Broadway, which occur in beautiful venues such as the Oriental and Auditorium Theatres.  The Lyric Opera is performing Faust around the time of the wedding, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will be playing Bruch. 

Improv comedy is something that really thrives in the city; Improv Olympic and Second City are both excellent (iO is cheaper), and offer shows every weekend (sometimes multiple shows in a day).  

Another odd, but awesome, theatre production is Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, performed by the Neo-Futurists.  There are no reservations for this, so get there early and wait in line.  To get in, you pay $9+whatever you roll on a 6-sided die (so... between $10 and $15).  If they sell out the show (they have every time I have gone) they order a pizza for everyone.  The premise of the show is 30 plays in 60 minutes.  You get a "menu" of titles, and you shout out the plays you want performed; usually they don't get through all 30 of them, but they always come very close!

Anyway, I am going to stop this now, since it is super long!

<3
Sara

Fun things to do in Chicagoland (!)

One of the perks of having your wedding near a fantastic city is that it allows all of the guests to take a mini-vacation, in addition to watching your nuptials.  Here is a brief list of a few of the things Chicago (and the North Shore) have to offer:

North Shore

As the name implies, the "North Shore" is the region to the north of the city that borders the lakefront.  It is a really beautiful area, with quite a bit to see and do (although much of it is a lot more low-key than in the city).  From South to North, there is Evanston, Wilmette, Kenilworth, Winnetka, Glencoe, and Highland Park.  Border-towns include Northbrook, Northfield, and Deerfield.  Note that a lot of this info might be "Wilmette-heavy" because that is where I am from!

Siteseeing
There is quite a bit of lakefront, and were the wedding in the summer, I would suggest taking a trip to Gillson park and hitting up the beach, or going sailing, etc..  Sadly, the wedding is in October, and the Chicago weather is a bit unpredictable, so the beaches are closed.  Still, there are quite a few parks, good for strolling or running, and the nearby Baha'i temple is truly beautiful.  The architecture along the lakefront is also gorgeous.

Sports / Fitness
If you're into ice skating, there are two nearby indoor ice rinks that have public skating hours, Centennial Park in Wilmette, and Northbrook Sports Center but their websites don't exactly tell when they are!  Usually there is a friday night thing, filled with pre-teen love.  Centennial also has indoor tennis, for a fee (you can play tennis for free at some of the outdoor parks, weather permitting).  If you're a big golfer, there are several courses, many of which are members-only.  A few public options are the Wilmette Golf Club, which has a 9-hole and 18-hole option (around $50 for 18 holes), Winnetka Golf Club (also ~$50) and the Frank Govern Memorial Golf Club (formerly Peter Jans), which is $25 for 18 holes.  A lot of these places also offer some sort of afternoon discount.  If you need to go to a gym, and your hotel doesn't have one, you can hit up the Wilmette Fitness Center for $7/day.

As for spectator sports, Northwestern plays Miami of Ohio on my wedding day at 11am.  If you're a big Northwestern fan, a better option might be for you to visit West Lafayette, and watch them get destroyed by Purdue the weekend beforehand!  If you go to the game, make sure you leave time for driving back in traffic!  Same thing goes for people staying in Evanston; you have important places to go!!! :)

If after the wedding you want to watch some other people torture themselves, hit up the Chicago Marathon, which will begin early Sunday morning!!! My brother ran it last year; I had a lot of fun; I don't think he necessarily felt the same way!  If you get there early, you can watch the Kenyan runners sprint the entire thing.  Absolutely amazing.

Arts / Culture

There are always fun events going on in the area, however I don't know what they are going to be at this moment!  If you are so inclined, check out the Evanston Art Center, or the Block Museum at Northwestern.  UPDATE: For a moving historical experience, look into the recently opened Holocaust Museum & Educational Center, which is right in Skokie.  If you're into theatre, look at the Northlight Theatre in Skokie, there may be something fun playing.  For movies, there is the Wilmette Theater, which shows mostly older / arty films, and also occasionally has live shows.  For more typical movies, look for Century 12/CineArts in Evanston, and Old Orchard Gardens Cinema.  Fun fun. 

Shopping

There are two major shopping malls in the area: Old Orchard, which is outdoors, and Northbrook Court, which is indoors.  Both are mostly high-end stores.  For more boutique shopping, I would hit up downtown Evanston, which surprisingly has its own website(!) or Highland Park.  Wilmette also has a "French Market" (which I think is like a fancy farmers market, but correct me if I'm wrong!) on Saturdays from 8am-1pm. My mom bought a delicious bread thing there, at least once.  Downtown Wilmette and Hubbard Woods in Winnetka have some nice stores as well.  Many of you have probably heard Dan and myself rant about the Spice House in Evanston as well.  If you have time, check out the cinnamons.  You will not regret it. 

Well, this entry is getting really long!  I am going to stop now, and write about Chicago later!  I will also post some good restaurants at some point.

Take care!
Sara

Char Crews sale

I just wanted to let everyone know that Char Crews is having a "semi-annual sale" from July 13-19th.  Because of this, our china will be discounted 20% which is far lower than most other places are selling it for.  If fine china is your thing, you might check it out.

FYI, the savings are not on the website (you can see what we have registered for there, but the prices are not discounted) so you will want to either go there (there are stores in Wilmette and Hinsdale), call them (877-438-2536) or e-mail them (contact person is peggybitsas@yahoo.com).  Again, no pressure to buy any of this stuff, but if you were already planning on getting them, you might as well save yourself some cash!

<3
Sara

Registries

In my quest for addresses, I have been asked several times where Dan and I are registered.  The answer, up until recently, was largely "nowhere!" (except for a few stray items).  This has now changed (although we are not 100% done with it; items may come and go)!

For those of you who are inclined to purchase gifts off of a registry, here is our information:

For our fine china, we are registered at Char Crews in Wilmette/Hinsdale, IL.  For those of you who do not live in IL, you can order online, or else you can purchase our pattern (Vera Wang Grosgrain) elsewhere (keep in mind that most places are more expensive).

For our nice glassware, and some isolated kitchen items (we have much of what we need already!) we are registered at Williams Sonoma (unfortunately, they will not allow us to directly link to our registry, so please type in either one of our names!).

For everyday dishes and flatware (and some other things), we are registered at Crate and Barrel.

And for the rest, we are registered at Target

Sorry everything is scattered; I have been trying to find the best deals (or best quality) on everything; if I see a better deal, I will try to let you know. 

Keep in mind, my posting this is merely for the convenience of those that do choose to purchase gifts, and does *not* imply that we expect anyone to purchase anything at all, much less off of the registry.  We understand that simply attending a wedding is costly, and encourage everyone to be creative, and thrifty!  Thank you all in advance!

<3
Sara & Dan .

Dress Code

Dan and I would like our guests to feel comfortable in their attire, and as such are not specifying a strict dress code of the "black tie" variety.  That said, the groomsmen will be wearing tuxedos, and the bridesmaids will be wearing cocktail-style dresses.  We encourage our guests to dress in a semi-formal fashion, which for these purposes will be defined as anything between sportcoat/trousers and a tuxedo for gentlemen, and a cocktail dress or an elegant suit for the ladies.

This note is of particular importance for the men out there, as our reception hall, Sunset Ridge Country Club, has a dress code which they enforce.  A component of the dress code is that men must wear a jacket upon entering the club (either a sport coat or suit of some kind).

I figured I would just throw that out there so you can make preparations if necessary.  If you are in a pinch, Target has jackets for around $60.

Cheers!

Hotel Blocks!

Today I reserved some hotel blocks at the Renaissance and the Red Roof Inn.

I have a block of 30 rooms at the Renaissance for Friday (10/9/09) and Saturday (10/10/09), and a small (10?) block of rooms for Sunday (10/11/09), and the price is locked at $89.  If you choose to book here, you have until two weeks before the wedding (or until all of the rooms in the hotel are booked).  Dan and I have stayed at the Renaissance, and found that the rooms were quite comfortable, and the hotel was really nice (although they have a weird chess theme going on).  The block is reserved under "Hargrave-Noland Wedding."  UPDATE: As of 8/20/09, you can obtain our special rate by using this website.

I also have a block of 25 rooms for Friday and Saturday at the Red Roof Inn; the price is locked at $64.99 for 2 adults, and $69.99 for 3-4 adults (although you can probably sneak people in). It looks like a perfectly nice hotel, especially for the money, but probably not as luxurious.  The block of rooms is reserved under "Hargrave-Noland Wedding" or #B188000712.  

I think It might also be possible to get a better rate by booking elsewhere if you scour internet sales, so keep that in mind. 

I think I will also reserve some rooms at some of the other hotels; if anybody has any preferences, please let me know (take a look at the list from the previous entry, if you need suggestions).  Also, if you call, and the block is full, please let me know, as I can reserve another block at that time (at the same rate).

Yay! 

Nearby Hotels

One exciting thing about our wedding date is that it also happens to be the day before the Chicago Marathon!  This is exciting for those that want to watch the athletes on Sunday (it is fun, we watched Charlie last year!), but it also means that thousands of people are going to be descending on our fair city, booking up hotel rooms so that they can wake up refreshed and ready to run a crazy 26.2 miles!  

Luckily, we are getting married in Suburbia, and the majority of the racers will be staying in the city proper, so things won't be too hectic, but it might not be a bad idea to book a room a little more in advance than you would normally.  Tomorrow I am going to try to contact some hotels regarding blocks of rooms, but for now, I am just going to list a few nearby options, their distances from the ceremony and reception and their current* Expedia price tag (for a basic double room):

Hotels (by distance from reception):

Sheraton Chicago - Northbrook.  5.8 mi from St. Francis, 1.1 mi from Sunset Ridge.  $109/night

Renaissance Chicago - North Shore. 7.1 mi from St. Francis, 1.4 mi from Sunset Ridge. $89/night

Red Roof Inn Chicago - Westbrook, IL. 11 mi from St. Francis, 4.1 mi from Sunset Ridge. $60/night

Hampton Inn & Suites - Chicago North Shore.  4.9 mi from St. Francis, 4.8 mi from Sunset Ridge. $179/night

Doubletree Skokie. 3.5 mi from St. Francis, 5.6 mi. from Sunset Ridge.  $144/night.

Hilton Garden Inn - Evanston. 2.4 mi from St. Francis, 8.8 mi from Sunset Ridge. $199/night.

As you can see, there are a lot of options (there are more than that; feel free to look up "Hotels near 60093" on google) at a variety of price ranges; I am sure that everyone can find accommodations without too much of a problem!  If anybody needs assistance, please let me know!

*subject to change!


The Engagement

For those interested in the story of our engagement in Paris, you can find it here on my personal blog.

Sara's first post

Hi everyone!  I am excited that everything is coming along.  We have a photographer, a cake, a venue, a florist, and now a website!  Yay.  I will certainly be writing more here in the future; you will soon be able to find hotel recommendations, registry info, and other relevant (and possibly irrelevant) stuff!  But for now, hello!