Wednesday, March 27, 2013

TYOE: St. Louis

One of the sweetest humans I know married another keeper, and now has gone and gotten herself pregnant (actually BOTH couples mentioned in that blog have managed to get themselves knocked up which is kind of spooky, but awesome. Awesomespooky).

To celebrate KChu (who should now go by her married nickname, KHow) bringing a new awesome human into the world (and the end of girlie time as we have all known it thus far), we decided a trip out of town was in order.

I steamrolled everyone's twee suggestions about wine country and lake houses and demanded that we all go to St. Louis, because I have been dying to go to the City Museum for YEARS and I could not think of a better group of people to drag along for the party.

My sweet potluck group is the best. Every month (or so) we get together, make yummy food, and talk about our ever-evolving-ever-changing-ever-new-sometimes-scary lives. There tends to be lots of wine involved.

But we put the pots and pans away and went to the Lou for a quick girls weekend.

KHow and I took the Amtrak down to St. Louis from Chicago. What a dignified way to travel. I will truly believe that America is the greatest country when we get our collective shit together and build a high-speed railway. And then I will never get on a plane again.

The train dumped us and it was a quick walk to Lafayette Park and our amazing mansion-home for the weekend. KHow found this gorgeous house on This was my first time staying in a vbro-type situation and it.was.AWESOME. This house was stunning. Girls never get tired of playing pretend in a dream home, no matter how old they get.

The house was so great, we spent the first day just sitting and enjoying it. Doing work, eating snacks, occasionally going up and down staircases, just because.

Finally our diet of jelly beans and clementines was no longer sufficient and we hoped over to SqWires for dinner. We managed to get seats at the bar (which was great, because the place was packed) and ate a quick dinner. The food wasn't spectacular, but it was delicious and totally hit the spot.

The rest of our companions arrived late that night while we were dozing in the media room (as you do).

The next morning we made ourselves breakfast (you know a kitchen is spacious when seven girls can be futzing around and it doesn't feel crowded) with some help from Park Avenue Coffee and their good coffee and indescribable gooey butter cake before heading out for adventures.

After a few wrong turns and an excellent photo-op by an enormous tire, we made it to a two mile wall of graffiti (if you are looking for the legal two mile graffiti wall in St. Louis  - the best place to access it is at the intersection of S. Wharf St. and Chouteau Ave).

Then it was just a quick walk along the lovely industrial waterfront to the Gateway Arch.

Arch park is gorgeous. If being-up-high isn't your thing, then there is no need to go up inside the Arch. There is plenty to do and see on the ground. As with going up in any tall structure. It's entertaining for about six minutes. You take some pictures, comment on the view aaaand its time to come down. I thought it was worth the
$10, but I am sure there are those who would disagree.

All the best photo ops are on the ground anyway.

With a quick stop for a late lunch, we then (FINALLY) made it to the City Museum just at 5 PM (when the price drops from $12, to $10 - Score! And the place is open until midnight! Double score!). We had strategically planned to come later in the day in the hopes that perhaps there would be fewer children underfoot. Since we weren't there mid-day it was impossible to compare but there were still children evvverywhere. I get it, its a very kid friendly place (and on a kindofwarm early March Saturday, there aren't a ton of options for the kiddos) but, I would have been willing to pay $20 if we could have gotten some sort of adult swim type deal.

Even with the littles running around, we still had an amazing time. Not since my days spent traipsing about the original Children's Museum in Washington DC have I ever had this much fun within a museum's walls. There was very little learning, it was just more go! do! see! climb! crawl! slide! go more!

When you visit:

Play outside! You must trust that all the pieces will stay together and that you can climb out on that airplane wing and through that crazy tunnel. You can. And you absolutely should.

Make art! You'll be tired after the outside adventures. So paint. Get your portrait drawn. Make snowflakes. Create things.

Go down the slides!
There are two that cannot be missed. The monster slide - which is right near the ticket booth and is bright and colorful. And the 10-story-slide which is a little more tucked away. The entrance to it is on the first floor back by the caves. It is a surreal experience to slide down 10 stories (and one that will leave you dizzy and disoriented for a minute) but one you should have in your memory box.

Forget the Rules (or try to)! I've become a big fan of rules in recent years. But the thing about the City Museum is there are no rules. or maps. or instructions. You just go. Sometimes this can get terrifying (mostly when oblivious kids are blocking your path and you can't move) but it should be considered liberating to not worry so much about being right all the time.

After a few hours of go! do! see! all of us old farts were exhausted. We veto-ed a Washington St. dinner in favor of heading back to Lafayette Park (mostly because we wanted our walk home at the very end of the night to be as short as possible.

We made it to Square One Brewery for a yummy dinner (and even yummier drinks) before a quick trot home and a night of cupcakes, laughing and falling asleep midconversation.

We all slept late on Sunday and then stumbled back to SqWires for brunch (where there was a man playing piano! and a fireplace! the love is in the details, people) before heading back to Chicago.

I know there is more of St. Louis to see, but for the amount of time we had, it was nearly a perfect trip. We managed to get everywhere on foot! The sun shone down. We slept and ate well - there's really not much more you can ask for in a weekend getaway.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Double Post


I wrote a blog about dressing like a fancy regency lady for the Improvised Jane Austen blog.

You should go over here and read it. Then buy nice dresses. You deserve them.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


JBH is an awesome human being in approximately one zillion ways, but one of my favorite parts is that she can always tell (completely true) stories that make me laugh, out loud, when I having a grouchy time of it.

You should get your own JBH, they can be trapped with lobster nachos and Indiana Basketball.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

TYOE: San Diego

For our first on-a-plane adventure, we decided to cross timezones and spend some time soaking up all the Vitamin D our bodies had been missing during this dreary Chicago Winter.

San Diego is Guh-or-geous. We got off the plane and I was already ready to move in. Sure, I'll live in your crappy airport, just gimme all your sunshine.

The weather was in the 50's-60's all weekend with overflowing buckets of sunshine, and people kept apologizing for this! Nearly everyone we talked to was all, "sorry its so cold. I wish you guys got better weather this weekend." Meanwhile, boyfriend and I are walking around with our tongues to the sky trying to catch sunbeams. Sure it was a little cold for shorts, but I got myself a nice bit of color and so forgave everyone for the necessity of long sleeves.

Our hotel (priceline that 'ish, y'all) was right on the Bay and since we only had about 36 hours we decided that that's where we would spend most of our time. Sometimes you want to see all of a city, sometimes you realize that its better to enjoy what is right in front of you, especially in a place that is so easy to walk around in. This meant we had a very touristy weekend, but sometimes (hipsters, I'm talking to you here) being a tourist is Just. Fine.

Where we ate:
Top of the Market - ugh, so touristy. But we were starving and craving super delicious seafood for lunch on the first day. Swordfish tacos? Awesome. Atlantic Rock Crab Club? Kind of paled in comparison to the tacos. But not bad. Bonus Points? We were right on the bay and we got to watch old men in canoes fishing while we ate.

Spike Africa - We were super indecisive about where to eat dinner on Friday night and so walked in huuuuge circles, all over the Gaslamp district and into Little Italy before ending up here. I had the Ahi Mango Poke appetizer as my meal and it. was. perfect. Easily my favorite thing I ate the whole trip. With the Red's Strawberry Sail as my boozy side piece, I was the happiest camper. Boyfriend got the Island Pork Rib Plate (I'm not sure why) and was a little disappointed, but ordering ribs in a seafood joint seems like it would be a disappointing choice. So no pity over here.

Mission Beach Coffee Break - They had acai bowls. It wasn't nearly as good as the one we had with Maimees in Hawaii. But it was an acceptable silver medal acai bowl, enjoyed with our feet in the sand.

Roberto's Taco Shop - Six years ago, Boyfriend had a drunken burrito from this joint and has been dreaming about it ever since. We made that dream a reality, sober this time, which may have been a mistake. A California burrito is serious business. Some beer to line your stomach before the grease and fat train comes to town would not be the worst idea. So delicious and yet, much like jager shots and McDonalds cheeseburgers, something my body can no longer handle in excess.

Sally's Seafood on the Water - We were not super hungry after the dumptruck of burrito, but we needed something. Sally's had overpriced sushi. We ordered two rolls. They were so delicious. We were full and happy.

Cafe 222 - It's pretty hard to screw up brunch. And Cafe 222 held up their end of the deal by serving us eggs and carbs in a timely and delicious fashion. Just a warning: their website is obnoxious. Its almost bad enough to make me take away an imaginary star.

What we did:
The USS Midway Museum - So. Bad. Ass. Give yourself so many hours here (like >5), because even if you consider yourself disinterested in military history (me), you will be drawn to all the how-life-was intricacies of this place. Go up in the island. And all the way down to the engine rooms. Then think about how you walked around for five hours non.stop and still didn't see the whole thing. Wonder how something this enormous manages to float in water. Give the concepts of buoyancy and density some high-fives.

Mission Beach - We picked it because of its proximity to the requisite burrito stand. It was a little cold (and we a little didn't have towels) for beach sitting, but there was a grassy spot with palm trees that was perfect for reading and digesting said burritos.

Seaport Village - What a vortex of time wasting. I'm cool with being touristy but this was one step away from a fanny pack.

Mission Brewery - We did the beer-then-burrito thing a little backwards which made me feel pretty wretched. The beer was super good and the building was airy and wonderful. Even though my poor little stomach was about to explode.

Took public transit - The fastest way to my heart is an easy to use public transit system. The light rail and the buses were efficient and cheap and got us to exactly where we needed to go. Bonus points? We got to eavesdrop on some guy put out a hit on someone while on the bus. We felt dangerous, but safe.

Despite some crazy-expensive food and getting hosed in the hotel room department (no balcony?! weak), it was the perfect escape-from-Chicago-winter weekend. AND, it was my first time on the west coast! Ever (with the exception of some extended airport layovers)! Which means we got to fly over big Rocky Mountains and crazy flat Nevada! The East Coast will always be my number one boo, but I am diggin' on the rest of this fine land pretty hard these days.

Monday, March 18, 2013

In the Kitchen: Lavender Cookies

I'm not much of a baker. Sweet stuff is better left to my better half, mostly because its way more science than cooking and I'm a little too free-form to be constrained by measurements and rules (also, I tend to over-indulge in the licking-the-cake-spoon department). But occasionally I'll pull out the flour and sugar and do the damn thing.

Once upon a time, a little while ago, my amazing Godmother made amazing lavender cookies. I don't know if there was a specific occasion to go along with them, but they were there and I ate them and they were so.good.

I've thought about them on occasion since that day. And since I now live in one of the only neighborhoods where you can buy lavender without too much struggle (oh, Middle Eastern Bakery, you are The. Best.) I knew it was only a matter of time before I was having enough of a bad day to know I needed to make some soothing, smellgood cookies. 

Lavender Olive Oil Cookies (adapted from a Lemon Thyme Olive Oil Cookies recipe)
Recipe courtesy George Duran (by way of AEM).

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ginger  
1 tablespoon lavender
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons milk (I ended up using about 6 T. by the end)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon of salt 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or use silicone baking sheets.

Put the flour, sugar, baking soda, ginger, lavender, and salt into a bowl and whisk together to combine. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, milk, vanilla. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring with a wooden spoon until you form a nice smooth dough (my dough was super crumbly, so I kept adding additional tablespoons of milk, and ended up using about 3 additional table spoons before I got a consistency I was okay with; even after the additional milk they still required a little bit of TLC to be made into ball-shapes, but once cooked, they tasted perfect).

Roll heaping teaspoonfuls of the dough into balls. Place them about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake the cookies about 12 to 15 minutes, or until they are browned around the edges. Let the cookies cool for a few minutes and then transfer them to wire racks to cool completely.

They were just as awesome as I remembered them. After taking an informal poll of all the people who got to have a few, the boys all said they tasted like soap. The girls, however, said they tasted like a delightful secret garden experience in yo' mouth. I am inclined to agree with the girls. Lavender is such a strong scent, that it can be over- powering, but the olive-oil seemed to neutralize it. Make them, and let me know what you think. 

After I shared my batch, someone told me that apparently Princess Kate over there in jolly ole England is apparently big into lavender biscuits (which is what they call cookies over there, I guess. Probably because Pillsbury hasn't really gotten into the UK market). They were instrumental in helping to sooth her yucky preggo tummy in the first trimester. While my friend was not preggo, she was having some of the bubble guts and apparently these made her feel surprisingly better. So not only are they crazydelicious, they're medicinal too! 

Also, in other news, I've decided I hate the lighting in my kitchen. Everything looks so harsh and unappetizing. As I continue to spend more time than expected barefoot and in the kitchen, I'm also working on how to make the pictures of food I take look not gross. Any insight into how I can do this (without becoming a photoshop whiz) would be greatly appreciated.

Friday, March 15, 2013

TYOE: A Saturday in Milwaukee

2013 will be The Year of Exploration or TYOE.

For Christmas, Boyfriend gifted me the gift of adventure within the continental United States (just like on Double Dare!). Due to the absurd amount of flying for work he did last year, he earned enough miles to get me a Companion Pass on Southwest Airlines. And while many airlines would make you give up all your hard-earned miles for such a fancy piece of plastic, they let him keep the miles and the girlfriend-in-tow. So this year will be all about exploring as many of the places Southwest flies as we possibly can. The Year of Exploration (*trumpet noise*)

Well, our first adventure did not even require a plane ticket, just some gloves and a full tank of gas.

Boyfriend has been talking about this Spy Restaurant in Milwaukee forevvvvver, and we got the braintrust-y idea that we should go explore it in the middle of February when Milwaukee was a balmy 16 degrees ABOVE freezing.

I've discovered that when Boyfriend and I travel, we focus most of our energy on eating and drinking and walking around. We'll wander into a museum every now and then but we love food, we love booze and we love walking around burning off all those delicious, delicious calories. Are there awesome museums in Milwaukee (and the other cities we will visit)? Absolutely. Will we visit them? Meh. Maybe. We'll see.

The day started at Trocadero for brunch. We picked it for its proximity to the Lakefront Brewery - and in that regard, its awesome. We were told we had to have a Milwaukee Bloody Mary. I don't know how The Frenchie compares to other Bloodys (since I don't drink them on the regulars, being a mimosa girl myself), but it was spicy and delightful. The beer chaser felt unnecessary but I mean, when in Wisconsin... The food was fine, but I feel like its pretty hard to foul up brunch. The service wasn't great, but since we were only walking across the river to get to our next destination, we weren't in too much of a rush.

Then! After brunch, we discovered that the Holton Street bridge has both a convenient pedestrian walkway AND a sweet teeny-tiny little playground. Full of brunch and a little tipsy, in 16 degree weather, is not quite picture-perfect swinging weather, but we gave it a shot.

We mulled over which brewery to go to (Lakefront vs. Milwaukee Brewing Company) and ended up at Lakefront because that is where Facebook told us to go. It was a great experience, but now we want to try out Milwaukee for comparison's sake.

By 11 AM we had both had about 1.5 beers and were feeling AWESOME. Day drinking is the BEST, winter, summer, don't care. I like my beer while the sun is shining. The tour was fine, the beer was good (although we were disappointed in the lack of variety in the brew pub) and we walked out with two complimentary pint glasses (just what every household needs more of - pint glasses).

Three beers in and feeling buzzed to the max, we meandered down the riverfront path. I bet in the summer it is super gorgeous and full of fun things, but I have to say, with a snowy river and literally NO ONE around, it was kind of perfect.

We made it to the spy restaurant (with a quick stop at the statue of the Fonz which is sort of meaningless to me as I have not ever seen a single second of "Happy Days." But I love a good photo op).                 

The spy restaurant at 4 PM lacked a little of the required ambiance. It needs some darkness and to be less full of screaming children. But we had some fried cheese curds and ice cream (Lunch of (drunk) Champions) and a fancy martini and explored all the fun spy bits. If you really want a Super Spy Experience, get your ass to the Spy Museum in Washington DC and do the Spy training thing. I know its expensive but it is WORTH it for the James Bond power trip. 

We made it down to the Public Market which eeeeeveryone said we had to visit. Not knowing what it was, I was up for it. Until I realized it was just a giant, uber-trendy Whole Foods. 
Had we not just stuffed ourselves with sweet, sweet cheese we may have been amped for artisanal pickles and fresh halibut but it was just noisy and smelled funny so we left to find some non-food third ward adventures.

We found an amazing antique shop (in the same building as Paintball Dave's) and spend an hour or so convincing ourselves that we did not need a whole bunch of garbage (despite how bad we might have wanted it).

By that point, buzz worn off and cold starting to seep in, we made the choice to be done with Milwaukee. Was there more to see? Sure. But going to a museum at 5 PM is dumb and we live close enough to find comfort in the fact that it will always be there, hanging out, waiting for another day of drunken stumbles.

Celebrate your local adventure! Visit a small city within driving distance today!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Thursday's Best Internet Finds - Fancy Photos

I am a huge photography nerd. I like taking photographs, looking at photographs... all the other things people do with photos (its kind of just a two step process, I guess).

The internet is cool because it makes looking at photographs way easier. Thanks Internet!

I was talking with a friend this past weekend about maternity pictures, as she is up the spout and I was wondering if she was going to pay someone a whole bunch of money to capture her glowy, round self for all eternity.

She isn't, because we both agreed its kind of silly. The professional photo industry is exploding, largely thanks to social media. I give photographers a wholebunch of credit, they have made quite the little niche industry for themselves. We spent some time wondering which event will trend as the next photo-worthy moment. My guess is secret proposal photos (which is already blowing up) followed by "Pictures-in-our-first-house."

Please don't think I am knocking photographers, or people who chose to have these photos taken - I am not at all. I totally understand it, and I really enjoy looking at the end result.

However. That is not what this blog is about. (holy tangent, batman).

Badass, creative photo projects are my number one fav. And here are three awesome ones.

Back to the Future - my naraccistic self so totally wants to be part of this. It combines my two favorite things: vintage photos and adults looking kind of ridiculous.

Toy Stories - children from all over the world (kids are the best subjects) and their most prized possessions. So wonderful and simple. The preceding article has some interesting anthropological tidbits but really when you look at these photos, in the back of your mind you are only thinking about what your possessions would be. I feel like that if I was captured at age 3 - 5, it would have been a cabbage patch doll, some legos in a yellow bookbag and a book or two (although one of my parents would probably answer that question better), anytime after 5 and before 10 - it was books, and barbies, and my Samantha doll and probably some dress-ups.

you are my wild
 - children (I was not kidding about them being the best subjects), photographed by their amazing parents. Parents (if they are lucky enough to be talented in this field) are the best at capturing everything that is wonderful about childhood. These photos make me want to be a parent. But only if I can also be an amazing photographer.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Heart Dagger

Me: I really, really want to go to a Blackhawks game.

Boyfriend: Me too. I'll take you. We just have to wait...

Me: yeah

Boyfriend: ...until they lose.

Writing this blog post feels wrong. Posting on social media seems stupid. Turning on final score notifications on my phone was absurd.

Logically, in the verysmall logical part of my brain - I know that my actions have no effect on the Blackhawks season.

BUT. The rest of me. The Italian part, the Chicago-transplant part, the unlucky-in-most-things part, the part that is currently full of cake and chocolate chips and extra spoonfuls of ice cream - is so sure that when the Blackhawks lose, its going to be all my fault. I will have done something wrong. Gone to the game, worn the wrong underwear, been in a bar (instead of in my house) watching it, started watching too early, been too sober/too drunk/too hungry.

When the Blackhawks lose, I will feel really bad about it. And while I recognize that that makes me a total lunatic - I can't help it.

And I know I'm not alone. That sound you hear, during every game, around the 18-minute mark in the third period is the city of Chicago holding its collective breath. Although, to be honest, I don't know if anyone has entirely let it out yet.

I'm mostly glad that after an entire Notre Dame football season with the same emotions and tendency to channel my anxiety into spinach dip binges - Boyfriend finally understands how it goes.

And if you think I am Not wavering on pushing the publish button, you don't know me. Or my insanity.

She's pint-sized and amazing.