Monday, 25 August 2014

Travel To: Chicago, Illinois

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Sue - the world's most complete T-Rex

I think I'm supposed to apologize for my lack of posting last week, but I'm not going to. You know why? BECAUSE I GOT MARRIED! (!!!!)

It was crazy hectic, but it was also one great party. The most overwhelming aspect is realizing that all of your friends and family are in one place at one time, and it's for you. No one would be in that room/barn/field unless they wanted to be able to share your special day with you. What a feeling! I feel special and loved, and warm and fuzzy.

I could gush on and on.

But I won't. Because another thing I did was go on a quick little honeymoon road trip to Chicago. And that's why we're here today.



I can't say enough good things about Chicago. It's huge but inviting. It has some of the most top notch museums, galleries, and restaurants I've been in a loooong time. It's got Blues. And Jazz. And amazing architecture everywhere. It has lots of little neighbourhoods that are all unique, but also somehow totally "Chicago". It's got really good popcorn and really cheesy pizza. I was a total tourist for four days, and every second of it was awesome.

One thing we did find however is that Chicago is expensive. Every single attraction (except the Lincoln Park Zoo, which is free) was a minimum of $20/person, most were closer to $30 or even $40. They offer some discounts to students, and certain evenings are free or discounted ... if you happen to be a resident of Illinois. As a tourist though it got to be a bit much. Most major cities in North America are the same way but their free evenings tend include more than just state residents. Chicago should still absolutely be a must visit if you haven't been, but this is just something to keep in mind when planning!

To help us plan, we called on the powers of the internet the day before we left to gather ideas of things to see, eat, and do. We tried to do most of it, and squeezed in a couple of our own things too. Below is a list of my favourites.

SEE

  • Millennium Park and "the bean" - no list would be complete without this infamous sculpture, and it did not disappoint. At various points throughout the year (mostly) summer, Millennium Park also offers free concerts and shows. We just missed the free orchestra, but it's just reason to return!
  • The view from the top of the John Hancock tower - also known now as 360 Chicago. Aim for a clear day if possible, but even on our not so clear day we had 2 miles of visibility and were awed at the sight. 
  • The free Lincoln Park Zoo - both Other Half and I are on the fence about our feelings toward zoos, but we decided to head up there anyway to see what we could see. As far as free goes, this one is not to be missed. We were both impressed with the quality of the park and it's upkeep.
EAT
  • Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! - This tapas bar was one we found on our own, and I literally had to drag Other Half there. For starters he's rarely a "tapas" guy, and secondly we had just gotten caught in a thunderous downpour at Lincoln Park. He was tired and wanted to go back to the hotel to wait out the rest of the storm. I insisted we make the 10 minute trek (without umbrellas, since we wisely left them at the hotel) since we were hungry and the rain was letting up enough. Success! This ended up being our favourite meal. They have a huge selection of dishes to choose from along with an excellent list of wines, beers and sangrias. This would be the stop I recommend most.
  • The Chicago Diner - meat free since '83! This vegetarian and vegan spot specializes in diner classics that have been made meat free. And it's excellent. We split some 'wings' and then each had a sandwich and every single thing was delicious. I don't what kind of voodoo they are doing to make soy taste so good, but it's working. Apparently the 'shakes are to die for, but we were too stuffed and our planned second visit never quite made it to reality - a shame. 
  • El Nuevo Mexicano - two separate recommendations means it's a 'must visit' and boy are we glad we did. Their traditional lime margarita was perfectly tart and not too sweet and the atmosphere was perfect, busy but not touristy (this place is just far enough out of the way that it seemed to be mainly happy locals - same goes for the diner above). 
  • Honourable mentions go to the things everyone will tell you to do (and with good reason) - Garrett's Chicago Mix popcorn (half cheese, half caramel, mixed together and so salty-sweet good!), and deep dish pizza (we tried Lou Malnati's, but there are tons out there to try!)
DO
  • The Field Museum - This natural history museum started off a bit "meh" but really picked up speed when we hit the right areas. The Machine Inside exhibit that's currently running is worth the extra $$, and the evolution portion on the second floor would be where I would start next time - it's fascinating, but by the time I got there I was dead tired and could hardly focus.
  • The Art Institute of Chicago - Every major city has it's major gallery. This one just happens to be filled with some serious works of art. All the greats are represented here along with some interesting American folk art and much more. If you're an Illinois resident it's free after 5:00 on Thursdays,
  • The Architecture Foundation's river cruise - There are a few different companies that offer this cruise, but again this one happened to be recommended at least twice. The volunteer guide was exceptionally knowledgeable and recounted the stories of the buildings and their builders in a fascinating way. It was 90 minutes in the baking hot sun, but it was a highlight. 




Until next time!

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Wide Angle: Vol. 14

Pin It In the last week we have found a new place to live, purchased a car and done the mad scramble that is finishing wedding details. In short, it's been cray cray (yep, I said it). Oh and I reformatted my computer, because it decided that now was the best time to die. Lovely.

Other Half and I are getting married this weekend, and even though I woke up this morning to the worst possible weather forecast (oh hello sever thunderstorms and 15mm of rain!) I'm trying my very hardest to not freakout about it. It's hard. The whole darn thing is outside. It's hard. I'm trying. Keep everything crossed, ok? Ok!

Due to all the craziness, I've got some more behind the scenes to share. Enjoy and think positive sunny thoughts for this Saturday!


1. I went to a wood store. It was weirdly amazing. It made me want to learn how to use power tools.
2. Saw this beauty while apartment hunting in the city. It was love at first sight.
3. and 4. This past weekend my lovely friends and family showered me with love at a bridal shower that involved these amazing cake pops and then finished the evening with a bachelorette that included a Scotch tasting! Needless to say it was phenomenal from start to finish.
4. This my cat Zorra. I missed her a lot when we were in China. We're still catching up on two years of snuggles
6. Ontario has a beautiful sky. That is all.

Until next time!

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Link Love-In - the life-has-never-been-so-crazy edition

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image via Joy the Baker

Salutations! As the windstorm of my life continues to rage on (car shopping, apartment hunting, job hunting and wedding planning ALL AT THE SAME TIME!) I managed to do a little reading recently and find some gems. I hope, unlike me, you get to take a few minutes to sit back, relax, and enjoy these goodies.

Everyone needs an uplifting ditty every now and then (via The Hairpin)

Apparently I'm all about the summer drink this year (via Lark & Linen)

Joy the Baker has done it again (via Joy the Baker)

These are vegetable inspired wallpapers and they are amazing. The first one in particular has got to be one of the nicest things I've ever seen.  (via The Kitchn)

I love Toronto. So does Toronto Life. This is a round-up of reasons they are into it... some are just funny, some are spot on. (via Toronto Life)

As I've said in the past, being back in Canada is awesome. We're currently staying in Hamilton and while I cannot wait to move back into Toronto, I am enjoying some of the local flavours this eclectic place has to offer. If you find yourselves in this neck of the woods may I recommend some shopping at White Elephant (they just opened a second store!), some coffee at Mulberry Street Coffee House, and a big bite to eat at Chuck's Burger Bar. All locations are vegan friendly and locally owned!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Wide Angle: Vol. 13

Pin It You know what's busy? Summer. Summer has got to be the busiest time of year, but in the best way possible. It's full of food, drinks, cottages, pool days, patios and just general plans. Throw in the final weeks of wedding planning and ooooooh boy the days fly by.

As you probably guessed by the title of the post, it's time for another wide angle look at life behind the scenes… much of which will involve all these plans. It's been a great summer so far, but also one of the busiest.


1 & 2 - As I wrote about here, leaving our jobs behind in China was very bittersweet.  We had to say goodbye to a lot of great humans, colleagues and students alike. On the plus side, I got to feel like I was in high school again by getting my yearbook signed.

3, 4, & 5 - Before leaving for Canada we did a little traveling around China to squeeze in some pretty major sites that we hadn't yet had a chance to see in our travels. Beijing was the first stop and had some pretty cute street art with a message, and sitting serenely on the Great Wall was one of those moments that feels more surreal than anything else. Finally, I found some flowers in the mass of concrete that is Beijing, they were hidden in Jingshan Park behind the forbidden city.

6 & 7 - Our next stop was the Guangxi Province to see the karst formations around Yangshuo, and the Longji rice terraces. Totally worth it.

8 - This is what two years of life for two people looks like in suitcases … not that bad.

9 - Getting welcomed home with some Canadian themed flowers was pretty great!

10 - Those pool days I mentioned up above are usually spent with these people. These are the best people.

11 & 12 - Canada is beautiful and has a lot of nature to offer. Both Other Half and I have marvelled at the clouds since returning and the quality of sunsets has been unreal. The garden this flower comes from is one of my favourites, and this bloom is particularly charming.

13 - When it rains, we play Settlers of Catan (get into it) and eat ice cream sandwiches. It's the best.

14 - This is my city. And I love it.

What's been going on behind the scenes with you?

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Scotch and Ginger Beer Cocktail

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You know what's awesome about summer time? It seems to come with a built in excuse to soak up the warm rays (will full factor SPF of course!) and experiment with boozy drinks. Is that included in your definition of summer? Because if it's not, it totally should be. 

A simple Scotch on the rocks is one of my favourite drinks, it's easy, the flavours are rich, and it forces me to sip slowly so I don't turn into one of those weird booze guzzlers (which is precisely what happens when I drink fruity-boozy things that taste like juice … oh boy). However, a drink like that has a time and a place, and rereading the Harry Potter series for the 10th time super intellectual summer blockbuster is not it. So it was time to mix it up. 

This cocktail was whipped up in about 30 seconds flat and has a real juxtaposition of flavours. The scotch gives it a rich, deep flavour, but the ginger beer balances it out and makes it zippy and fun - which basically means you can serve this to anyone and everyone (of legal drinking age… I'm not promoting any wrong doing here). 

While we're here, let's talk about Ginger Beer for a second. Have you tried it? Do you know what it is? I'm discovering the many from North American are not privy to the delight that is this spicy/lively non-alcoholic beverage. Think of it as a less sweet, more gingery Ginger Ale and you're just about there. It's can pack a bit of a punch, so if this is your first time trying it, sip small at first but guaranteed you'll be back again and again!

Served over ice and with a twist of lime if you have it this would be the perfect drink to accompany some lime roasted cashews or a snack of sweet potato fries. yum!

Keep reading for the recipe!

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