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Ask Jess and Neal!

Ask Jess and Neal | The Golden Girl Blog

This past Saturday, while we were cooking breakfast, we thought it would be fun to make use of Instagram stories’ new “Ask me a question” feature and do a little impromptu “Ask Jess and Neal” segment. It was so much fun, but we didn’t get a chance to get to all your questions–so we decided it would be really fun to share all of our answers in a special edition of “Ask Jess.” Er–”Ask Jess and Neal”–that is!

Do you want kids? How many/when?

Jess: Yes definitely! I’ve talked Neal down from wanting four kids to two ? Definitely not right now. We want to enjoy married life with just the two of us!

Neal: I can’t wait for kids, but agree we have a lot more living we would like to experience as a 2 person team before adding anyone else to our roster.

What neighborhood of Chicago do you guys live in?

We live in Wicker Park!

When are you sharing more details about your wedding!?

Oyyy. If you’re new around here, our wedding was an absolute disaster. Really long story short, our original wedding venue got evacuated about 4 days before our wedding due to a wildfire. We flew into Portland the next day not even knowing where we were getting married and had to scramble to turn around an entirely new wedding in 36 hours. We found an incredible venue called Bella Madrona Gardens and honestly, the whole city and all of our friends and family rallied for us. It was the most heartwarming experience of our lives, but it absolute chaos. The event did turn out to be really beautiful (well–despite the fact that it started pouring during dinner out of nowhere, we had no tent, everyone’s food was wet, and about 5000 other things ALSO going wrong.)

To be honest I still don’t think we’ve recovered from the stress of it all. Whenever one of us brings up our wedding, the other one will joke, “DON’T YOU EVER BRING THAT UP EVER AGAIN!” It still gives me anxiety thinking about it. (And I’m not one that gets anxiety ?).

The thing is, that wasn’t the worst part of the story.

Our photographer is actually what ruined everything. Thank god Kelly and Mitch saved the day and I have beautiful photos that they took of the wedding. I can’t really get into any more details because we’re still dealing with the issue of getting our wedding video back–along with about 200 brides he still owes photos and video to.

The reason I haven’t shared many photos (well, the ones that Kelly took) or details of the story is because it’s been my dream to have my wedding featured on a big wedding website like Style Me Pretty forever–and they get pretty touchy about having the “exclusive” for everything–meaning, I need to keep everything hush-hush.

So–that’s the long and the short of it. Basically, get married for the marriage–don’t get married for the party, because it could all go up in flames ?

At least it makes one hell of a story and it has made the first year of marriage a breeze! The only way to go was up!

How did you two meet?

We met at work, which is hilarious because neither of us should’ve ever been at that job (it was in corporate staffing) but we graduated in the recession when jobs were slim pickings. We actually have a whole blog post on how we met right here–it’s my favorite post to date and probably the #1 reader favorite!

Interested whether most of your followers are Chicagoans or not?

Chicago is by far my biggest market for readers, but they only make up between 11%-18% of my audience depending on which platform you’re looking at. (More readers on my blog are from Chicago than my Instagram).

Have you guys ever thought about living in another city? If you didn’t live in Chicago where would you live?

We talk about this a lot and we can’t agree on any city that we’d want to move to ? We don’t really have any intentions of moving (except for when you ask me in February through April when the weather is still bad). All of our friends are here and so is all of Neal’s family who we are luckily so close to, it would take a lot for us to leave them!

Aside from that I think if Neal’s job wasn’t the #1 factor we’d probably agree on moving somewhere like Nashville but he needs to be in or near a major city in the Midwest or Texas for work. We both joke about buying a condo in Miami to escape to during the winter haha!

How many states and how many countries have you visited?

That’s a really good question. I have no idea on the states but here are the countries we’ve visited:

Jess: UK, France, Italy, Belgium, Ireland, The Netherlands, Czech Republic, Germany, Iceland, Mexico, Canada, Greece (Kind of. I went to Corfu for spring break studying abroad and stayed somewhere called “The Pink Palace Hostel” for the weekend but that doesn’t really count.)


How long have y’all been together? How long did you date before you got engaged?

We were dating for four years when we got engaged, married at 5 years and we’re coming up on 6 years in September. (We never actually had a “dating” anniversary).

Bloody Mary or Mimosa?

Both! If we’re at a restaurant, bloody (extra spicy!), but at home we make both often.

What were both of your AIM names?

Hahaha this is a great one.

Jess: BellaWithaTwist (?)–because my high school friend Liz and I had a pipe dream of being fashion designers and having a label called Bella (creative, I know). The different lines were going to be cocktail related–thus, mine was “With a Twist” and hers was “On The Rox”. (An odd concept for high schoolers to have.) You have to admit, at least I get points for not having the word “Gurl” or “Baby” in it??

Neal: Hmmm.  It wasn’t that cool or funny.  Loftus216  I believe. Sorry.

(Sigh. So typical. It must’ve been so hard to never have awkward years ?.) 

What is your favorite spot in Chicago for a date night?

Our #1 is Boefhaus–we always split the Salad du Marché (the best salad you’ll ever have) and the ribeye. It’s known for it’s steak but isn’t a steakhouse–it’s really cozy, homey, and unpretentious.

Another rival is Le Colonial–it’s French Vietnamese and one of the most romantic restaurants in the city. Don’t miss the pho and request to sit on the balcony! Whenever we go here we always go to Margaux at the Waldorf for drinks before and after!

Favorite brunch spot?

Probably Cafe Robey, but we don’t do brunch that often. We prefer to make breakfast at home because we think we make it just as good at 1/4th of the price. ?

Where did both of you go to college?

I went to Indiana University and he went to Illinois Wesleyan.

Who is the better cook?

I do most of the cooking but Neal always does the grilling and usually handles cooking meat. He also follows me around the kitchen and cleans up my messes and is the best sous chef. He would probably do more but I’m very particular so…yeah?

How many scars does Neal have from shirtless bacon cooking?

Hahaha okay for those of you who DON’T know–Neal doesn’t like wearing shirts. (Which I’m sure you know if you follow us on Instagram stories). We started “shirtless bacon” Saturdays as a joke (which some people don’t understand is a joke, haha) because Neal’s favorite thing to do is to cook bacon on Saturdays and he always happens to be shirtless. He claims he’s never been grease splattered because the trick is to cook the bacon on medium-low heat so it never splatters. So, he actually has no scars. ?

Are you ever going to get a dog?

We both really want a dog but we are gone so much that it just doesn’t make sense. Also I don’t want a dog that requires exercise when it’s like -20 below and we refuse to get a dog that sheds so between those two factors that eliminates like 99% of dogs ? Neither of us are cat people but I would entertain a cat that had a lot of personality and acted like a dog–if it didn’t shed–which is no cats. So yeah, back to the drawing board. Haha!

If we’re being honest, I doubt we’ll get a dog unless we have a yard where I can open the door and let him out if its too cold to go outside.

(Maybe we should get a hedgehog?) 

Do you meal plan/prep or just wing it?

Just wing it! If I can, I usually shop at Trader Joe’s so that gives me lot’s of options to make on the fly without making everything totally from scratch. See my TJ’s list here! 

Do you have a pastime or hobby you enjoy as a couple?

We both love to travel and love traveling together. Don’t marry someone until you’ve traveled abroad with them ? it will tell you a lot about a relationship!!

Other than that, with our work schedules, we really don’t see each other until the weekend so just spending time on date nights or staying in together making dinner (we love cooking together), having a glass of wine, etc is our hobby! I think if we saw each other 7 days a week we’d probably get a little more creative with hobbies and activities to do as a couple.

What is the next international trip you plan to take?

We don’t have one planned but we’d like to go to a Spanish speaking country since that’s the one language we can actually speak–we think it would be fun to brush up on our Spanish together beforehand! Thinking either Spain or Colombia, but we’ve also always really wanted to go to Cuba!

How do you resolve major conflicts (for issues like money, when to have babies, etc)?

Jess: That’s a good question, luckily we’ve always been on the same page with major life stuff like that so I wouldn’t ever consider that a “conflict”–I think that’s part of really getting to know someone before you get married so none of that stuff comes up unexpectedly.

Neal: Teamwork, which is basically debate, and compromise when it comes to this stuff.

Separate bank accounts for everyday stuff has worked really well for us, and Venmo has made splitting big costs equally easy.  I find we avoid a lot of classic shopping debates with this policy.

Finances seem to be the #1 issue that couples struggle with but I make Jess attend the meetings with our financial advisor even though she does not have a lot of interest in that stuff.  Be on the same page with money.  Save.  Don’t pay interest to credit card companies.

As far as babies go, we agree that we have a lot more living we would like to experience as a 2 person team before adding anyone else to our roster.

Was Neal well dressed when you met him or did that develop over time?

Jess: Hahaha! So many women ask me this question. I’ve actually never dressed him–he has developed his sense of style over time all on his own. I always joke that he’s far more stylish than me. (He also has more clothes. Way more clothes.)

Neal: I wouldn’t say I have always been well dressed (think lots of Abercrombie polos in college ughhh) but I have always been somewhat trendy and have always cared about what I wear.  Jess has never dressed me or bought clothes for me, but I do listen to her when she has a strong opinion.  I’ve always been a bit over the top and I confidently take risks with what I’ll wear.  My Grandma (Mom’s Mom Mimi) would call my Papa a Peacock back in the day – I have a lot of that in me as well.

Are you both extroverts?

Yes, definitely both extroverted, but I would say I’ve become more of an introverted extrovert in my “old age” ? A lot of times I would much rather stay in than go out and talk to a bunch of people all night. (Basically the opposite of 22 year old me.)

Do you have one year anniversary plans?

We’ve been trying to figure that out! Some of our best friends are getting married on our actual anniversary (which is so fun!! We can’t wait and so excited to share our anniversary with them!) But I think we’ve narrowed down that we’ll go to Nashville (where we actually went our first anniversary of dating) a couple weekends later.

What’s your favorite/least favorite thing about married life?

Jess: Honestly not much has really changed because we lived together before we were married–we definitely got all the freak-out-major-adjustment moments out of the way when we moved in together a few years ago. The best thing about being married is that marriage makes you feel like a TRUE team and I love being able to call him my husband–it feels like our relationship is just way more official. We truly have so much fun together and there is nobody else we would rather spend time with than one another. I love that we laugh together as hard as I laugh with my girlfriends and knowing that we are there for one another no matter what.

My least favorite thing about marriage is silly.

But it’s that I’m a spazz and our condo is always a disaster and I feel like a bad wife when it’s messy because he shouldn’t have to live in my mess ?

Also, our crazy work schedules do make things trickier, especially because Neal travels so much but to be honest, I feel like like it works for us. It’s both a blessing and a curse, but overall I see it as a positive because it means we never take each other for granted and always miss each other. I always get a rush of excitement on Thursdays because I know he’s coming home and I don’t think that many people can say that after being together for 6 years. (Regardless of how long we’ve been married.)

Neal: (Of course his is way longer and sappier than mine ?) 

I’ve answered this before in so many ways, but what changed for me when we got married was pretty simple: I can now introduce Jess to people as “My Wife.”  Exchanging vows to devote your lives to each other in front of all of your closest friends and family is a big big deal, but at the same time we came from a place where we knew we wanted to be together, had bought a condo together, and lived together for a year prior, so there was no “OMG you load the dishwasher THAT way?” moments after we were married.  With that being said…

My favorite part about being married…

It is officially having a partner and teammate to survive life with.  As Jess and I continue to grow together and grow (ugh) older, I continue to realize that life is not about fantastic achievements or material gain, but instead it is about struggling well and finding meaning in your work and in your relationships.
When I think back to were Jess and I were 5 years ago relative to where we are now, I smile and do really love and take pride in the life we have created together, but some of my favorite memories are not the glamorous ones.  There was a time when I carried Jess over snow banks to shoot photos for her that maybe 30-50 of you were going to see on the blog.  There was a time when I couldn’t get anyone to take a meeting with me.  We both believed in each other and pushed each other to survive those dark days.
Looking back, I don’t know if I could have done it without Jess and I hope she feels the same way about me.  And I know the road ahead will only feature more (and more difficult) days and years like the ones behind us.  That’s life in a nutshell, and that is my favorite part about married life: knowing that I have the right person holding my hand and bringing out the best in me.

Least favorite thing about married life?

That’s easy-maintaining a work/life balance with my demanding business travel schedule.  It’s no secret that I have to travel a lot for work & for the most part it works for us, but I miss random everyday things sometimes & deal with loneliness on the road. This may not be the right answer to the question, but that’s really my only answer.  I miss my wife a lot- I suppose that’s a good “least favorite” answer to have.

What made you decide to buy a place vs keep renting?

We think if you have enough money saved up to buy, it’s always the smartest decision because with renting you’re just throwing away money you’ll never get back. We also knew it was smart to buy in our neighborhood because it’s growing and expanding so much. The longer we hold onto it the more the property value will increase.

How would you recommend merging finances?

I think everyone is SO different with this and you just need to figure out what works for you. We’ve always kept them separate so we haven’t changed it since we got married. I’m sure that once we have kids that will change, but it feels kind of like a “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” situation right now. We both have different bills we take care of that even out and we just have discussions on how we want to settle up larger things like trips, etc. We haven’t done the joint bank account thing because we want to put everything on our own credit cards for the points anyway, so that seems a little pointless.

Would you ever consider moving to the suburbs?

That’s definitely not something we ever WANT to do but know that priorities change after having kids. So who knows. We definitely would love to raise our kids in the city but know that might not be the case. We try not to think about it too much. ?

How does Neal feel about being on your stories so much?

Neal: I really don’t mind and usually find it fun.  It took a bit of time to get used to having a camera in my face, but now I don’t react. Professionally I have to present/speak in front of groups all the time so I don’t have much stage freight.  Jess has built her brand on realness and stories are very much an extension of our real life.  Her being annoying/quirky/messy is all real.  Me rolling my eyes, rarely wearing shirts in the home, etc: all real.  If you guys enjoy unedited glimpses into our lives I am happy to be there.  Hopefully we make you laugh and maybe even teach you some cool stuff along the way.