Category Archives: stuff i love

saying yes to adventure: thailand

Last summer, I was on the cusp of turning 29. Getting that much closer to turning 30 didn’t bother me (at the time), but I had a realization that did: I have never traveled overseas.

Sure, I’ve traveled internationally. But only to Mexico and Central America, both of which are regions that speak a language I know and are in the same time zone as Chicago, give or take an hour.

I had never been on a plane for more than 4 hours. I had never experienced jet lag. I had never stepped foot in an airport where the majority of the signs were in a language I didn’t understand.

In college, while my friends went to study abroad, I stayed behind on campus. Given that I had already chosen to attend an out of state, private university, it was a luxury I couldn’t afford. After I graduated, I toyed with the idea of taking a trip for myself to Europe, or anywhere really. But I was ultimately more concerned with finding a full-time job and paying my bills to do anything so spontaneous.

Which brings us back to last summer. I have a full-time job, am paying my bills, on the verge of 29, and a few months away from getting married. Life seems on track, but the lack of overseas travel bothered me. By happenstance, my good friend Adrian mentioned casually that his friend was getting married in Phuket and due to a lack of vacation time, his girlfriend wouldn’t be able to go. I jokingly volunteered myself as his travel buddy, and then seriously volunteered myself.

There were a million reasons I could have used to talk myself out of this trip. But like I said before, it’s really easy to talk yourself out of doing some spontaneous, for the sake of being practical or responsible. I had no real reason to say no and ultimately, I knew it was something I really wanted to do.

Since all the traveling I did during this trip didn’t kill me, I can only assume it made me stronger. I met Adrian in NYC, since it was strangely cheaper to fly to Thailand via China from there than from Chicago, even with the flight to NYC and back on top. One small problem: I was flying into Newark, since our connection with Air China was supposed to be flying out of that airport. Until they decided it was going to fly out of JFK instead. So I spent the morning traveling from New Jersey to Queens, which isn’t exactly fun. Even less fun? Missing our connection to Thailand because our first flight left late, resulting in spending a couple of hours in the Beijing airport and arriving in Phuket about 10 hours later than we intended.

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Most people would assume this trip is already turning into a disaster. And considering that Adrian and I had never traveled together before, much less internationally, we could have easily turned on each other. Instead, in our delirium, we laughed it off, drank Chinese beer while we waited, eventually made it Thailand, stumbled into our hotel and checked in before promptly passing out for a few hours. We only spend two days in Phuket before moving on, but relaxing by the pool and the wedding itself were a solid way to start this vacation.

I don’t know what possessed us to fly out so early the next day after the wedding, but we did and headed to Bangkok for a couple of days. Bangkok was even more of a blur, filled with lots of walking, temples, good food, and markets. During our first day, we went to the Jim Thompson House, Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha), and the Grand Palace. We thought we could squeeze in more but exhaustion eventually got to us. We ended the day with dinner at Soul Food and grabbed beers at Mikkeller Bangkok.

jthompsonhouse

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watpho

The 2nd day was a little more laid back, which a trip outside the city to two markets: the Maeklong Railway Market and the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. To make things easier, we ended up hiring a tour guide who essentially organized everything for us. He was really familiar with both markets and knew the locals, as well as the language of course. Tourists tend to flock to both of these markets, but for Maeklong, I only saw tourists outside on the railway section and not inside the larger market found in a neighboring building. Our guide helped us buy a few things, including fresh Thai chili peppers and dried fruit. Everything is so delicious and cheap, it’s kinda insane. I would have loved to have done a different floating market since Damnoen Saduak is very popular and crowded, but it was the only one open during the week. I did get to try mango and sticky rice, as well as coconut ice cream, which is my new favorite dessert.

railwaymarket

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floatingmarket

We relaxed at our hotel before flying back to Phuket, where our trip be ending. I would go back to Bangkok in a heartbeat; there’s so much to see and do.

Back in Phuket, we stayed on a different beach and spent our first day back seeing elephants. Elephants are native to northern Thailand and I would have much preferred to see them in a sanctuary but I went with a local place that was well reviewed and recommended. The elephants were well taken care of, which is all that mattered to me. After that, it was an afternoon of hotel pool lounging. Note: all hotel pools should have a swim-up bar. It’s amazing.

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On our last day, we went snorkeling, which lasted all morning and well into the afternoon. It was my first time ever so it was a bit overwhelming for me; it didn’t help that the waters at our first location were choppy and difficult to navigate. By the 2nd stop, I felt comfortable and was really able to enjoy it. And of course, the amount of tropical fish I saw was awesome. We also stopped at a couple of different beaches, where I saw the bluest water I have seen in my life.

After some confusion about our flights, we made to the airport just by the skin of our teeth and actually got back to New York in time. I stayed in Brooklyn for a night with one of my best friends before finally heading back to Chicago.

The thing about going halfway across the world for only a week is that it passes by insanely fast. Even the 13 hour flights didn’t seem that long (although I did sleep quite a bit). I’m so glad I went. I’m glad I got to spend time with a friend I otherwise hardly see.

Alex and I are heading to Italy for our delayed honeymoon in late March, and I’m already beginning to plan that trip. From here on out, I’m looking forward to saying yes to more adventures.

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’tis the season (for pumpkin beers)

A Guide To-pumpkin beers

(image by: sarah postma)

Ah yes, now that fall is in full swing, pumpkin spice madness is upon us. Like clockwork, all things pumpkin are rolled up and like the suckers that we are, we fall for it–hook, line, and sinker.

Again, I fully admit my love of pumpkin goodness every year. Although I draw the line at pumpkin spice candles; I hate that sugary sweet smell. I also don’t really enjoy PSLs, essentially for the same reason as pumpkin spice candles. Way too sickeningly sweet. But pumpkin spice itself–the mix of pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg–is great and when used correctly, damn tasty. One thing that I’ve also come to really enjoy? Pumpkin beers. Some of my favorite breweries put out some pretty decent ones and I’ve discovered some new gems this year, so I figured I’d put together a comprehensive list of what I’ve tried so far this fall:

O’Fallon Pumpkin Beer
Don’t let the crudely drawn label fool you; this is one of the best pumpkin beers out there, hands down. O’Fallon has managed to find a great balance–you can definitely taste the pumpkin spice used, but their beer isn’t overly sweet. It’s my go-to every year.

Southern Tier Pumking
Pumking is definitely for those who like their pumpkin beers on the sweeter side. I don’t think dessert beers are a thing, but it’s great with a sweet fall treat like s’mores. For a version that packs waaay more of a punch, try Southern Tier’s Warlock, their counterpoint to Pumking.

Big Muddy Brewing Pumpkin Smasher
I just had this one for the first time this month and I’m a big fan. It helps that Big Muddy uses real pumpkins in addition to pumpkin pie spices. You can definitely taste the difference.

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale
I was pretty impressed with Dogfish Head’s take on a pumpkin beer (their stuff is usually hit or miss for me). Surprisingly strong for its kind of brew (at 7%), it’s a really nice brown ale.

Spiteful Jackass O’Lantern
Gotta show some love for a local brewery as well. I love almost everything Spiteful puts out and their pumpkin beer is no different. It’s in the same vein as Dogfish Head: a nice brown ale with caramel and malt flavors in addition to the pumpkin spice goodness.

Lakefront Brewing Imperial Pumpkin
I’ve seen a lot more imperial pumpkins out this year (including O’Fallon’s Imperial Pumpkin) but Lakefront’s is really great. At 9.5%, it’s pretty strong but oh so delicious. I also had their Pumpkin Lager this past weekend and definitely enjoyed it as well.

And those are my favorite ones so far! This is definitely just the tip of the iceberg this season. It seems like more and more breweries are rolling out pumpkin beers in addition to their other seasonals and I’m pretty much making it my mission to try them all. There are definitely a few on my list that I have yet to try. Do you have any recommendations?

Also, if you’re on Untapped, add me! I love checking out what craft beers other folks are drinking.

paleta making, take 2

I am in full-on denial right now about summer ending. I know that fall sounds lovely (IN THEORY) to lots of folks, but I’m still clinging to these warm, sunny days like my life depends on it. I’m really hoping that Chicago will still be fairly warm (damn this unseasonably cool summer!) until late September, but that might just be wishful thinking on my part.

Anyway, last summer I went on a paleta making spree and this summer was really no different. I made some of my staples from last year, and also tried out a few new ones, including Maura’s vegan fudge popsicles which were of course, super delicious.

My most recent recipe was one I revisited and tweaked from last year. I was super happy with the results, so I thought I’d share it:

paletas

Coconut lime yogurt paletas
Makes 6 paletas
Adapted from The Corner Kitchen

Ingredients:
1 14-oz can of light coconut milk
1 cup of plain Greek yogurt (I used Trader Joe’s brand yogurt)
1/4 cup of agave syrup
1/2 cup of sweetened (or unsweetened) shredded coconut
Juice and zest of two limes

Blend together the yogurt and coconut milk. Once it’s fully mixed, add in the agave syrup and lime juice + zest. Either blend in or mix in by hand the shredded coconut. Freeze the paletas for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. Run the molds under warm water for at least 30 seconds and then wiggle the paleta out. Enjoy!

Summer isn’t over yet, so enjoy it while it lasts! I know I will.

five things friday – may 9th

Another Friday, another five things post! I really am attempting to make this a somewhat regular thing. So without further ado, let’s get this started:

So remember my whole treat yoself post? I’ve actually managed to stick to that, in small, minimal purchases. But I recently splurged on something that I’m currently considering a very early birthday present to myself:

everpursemini

I pre-ordered the Everpurse Mini a couple of weeks ago and I’m so, so excited to get it this summer. I’ve written about Everpurse before and I kept putting off investing in one. When I heard about the Mini, I realized that this would be perfect for me because I totally need to charge my phone on the go and I’m in dire need of a new wallet. My current wallet, which was actually a birthday present I bought myself when I was 23, is about the same size. I ordered mine in teal because it’s easily my favorite color. The low price I ordered mine for is no longer available, but you can still pre-order the Mini if you’re interested.

bourdain

Guys, Alex and I really love Anthony Bourdain. We’ve pretty much watched all his shows (No Reservations, The Layover, and now Parts Unknown) and Alex has read all his books. Now Bourdain has gone and cemented my admiration of him with this post about Mexico. I love the amount of respect and admiration he has for Mexican food and culture, and how he’s not afraid to call out America’s attitude towards its southern neighbor. His most recent episode of Parts Unknown takes place in Mexico City (there are clips up on CNN’s website). While the D.F. only gives a peek at what life was and continues to be like in Mexico today, it still shows that Mexico, despite the strides its made in the last few years in the face of danger and civil war-like situations, has a very long way to go.

This video has been everywhere lately but I feel compelled to share it here as well. ‘Look Up’ is a spoken word short film that talks about how consumed we are by technology today. And you know what? I’m TOTALLY guilty of this sometimes. It’s honestly become a tick; I’ve picked up and started scrolling through my phone without even realizing it. I do it when I’m bored or distracted, or even when I’m out with people. I love my phone, social media, and tech today as a whole, but I do think that it can be consuming at times. I definitely need to start paying more attention when I’m with my friends or out to dinner. Alex and I are going to get sushi tonight and enjoy the lovely weather we’ve been having, so I know that’s a place to start. I’ll leave my phone in my bag for once instead of having it within reach on the table.

overnightoats

[image courtesy of buzzfeed]

Although I’ve still been consistently baking my own granola (at least twice a month because it’s so freakin’ easy to do), I’ve been looking to mix up my daily breakfast. One of my new favorite things (which I actually just had for breakfast this morning) is overnight oats. I toss all the ingredients into a mason jar before bed, top with fruit in the morning and enjoy at work. I’ve been trying a few variations, including a recipe from Lauren Conrad, but my go-to version is: 1/2 cup of soy milk, 1/2 cup of oats, 1-2 teaspoons of chia seeds, and then add a handful of blueberries, banana slices, and a spoonful of peanut butter in the morning to top it off.

Last but not least, my latest music obsession: Lorde. I can’t stop listening to Glory and Gore; it’s easily my favorite of her singles. A close runner-up: Ain’t It Fun by Paramore.

 

chicago neighborhoods: andersonville

It’s been a while since I’ve written about Andersonville. Actually, according to my blog, it’s been almost two years. Now that I live closer to this ‘hood, I’m hoping to make visits to this area a regular thing.

Alex and I spent a chunk of Saturday afternoon in Andersonville, beginning with lunch at Jerry’s. This is their 2nd location; the original is in Wicker Park. It’s a great place for a burger and some beer.

andersonville2andersonville1 Other great restaurants in the area: Hamburger Mary’s for yet more burgers and craft beer, Acre for casual, rustic American food, and if you’re vegetarian like me, Reza’s is great for veggie-friendly Middle Eastern food. If you’re in the area for brunch, you can’t beat the Bongo Room.

Afterwards, we walked over to one of my favorite local shops: the Andersonville Galleria. It’s a collection of handmade goods from local merchants; it has everything from art to clothing to food. It’s three stories tall and it’s highly unlikely you’ll walk out of there empty-handed, so don’t say I didn’t warn you. I can never resist picking up a bag of salted bourbon caramels and Alex picked up some homemade soap (that smells damn manly).

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I can never go to Andersonville without stopping at Hopleaf for a pint, so we ended up at the bar for a quick drink before heading out for more shopping. Hopleaf is easily one of the best beer bars in the city and has a reputation for keeping great beers and ciders on tap and in stock. I’ve never been disappointed there.

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The best thing about Andersonville is all the vintage shops to check out. We ended up at Brimfield, one of my favorites. It’s an eclectic mix of stuff, mostly Americana (think old liquor bottles, wool blankets, and taxidermy). It looks like everything in there came from old cabins and homes around the Midwest and I sorta love it.

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Alex walked out with a glass decanter he is currently keeping whiskey in and I had restrain myself from grabbing a candle I definitely don’t need. Other great vintage shops in the area to check out are Roost, Scout, and White Attic.

I didn’t make it to one of my favorite places in the area, which is The Coffee Studio in the northern part of the neighborhood. I’ll definitely swing by soon, since I love buying their delicious pre-made iced coffee mix. It’s bound to be warm enough for iced coffee soon… I hope.

Once summer hits, I’m looking forward to doing more posts like this. I never get tired of visiting other neighborhoods in this city. :)

geeky & girly, vol. 8

Geeky & Girly (1)

Oh hey, look at me! Actually posting a G&G post like I said I would. High five, self! Although it looks like I’m only meant to post on Fridays, but here’s hoping I can break that habit as well.

First up, something geeky:

sailor mars lifting team

Let me start by saying that I used to be a big anime geek. Said geekdom peaked in high school, but I still watch some anime every now and then. Sailor Moon holds a really special place in my heart because it’s the first anime I ever watched (I was 9 when the TV show first started airing). What’s not to love about teen girls transforming into super heroes and kicking butt? So when I saw these shirts on Tumblr, I became kinda obsessed. What better motivation to work out than your favorite Sailor Scout? As you can see, my favorite was Sailor Mars. HUMAN has shirts and tank tops for each of the scouts and even Tuxedo Mask. On a related note, the Sailor Moon anime is being rebooted this summer. I’ll probably, definitely be checking that out.

And now something girly:

modclothdress

One of my goals this summer is to buy more dresses. And be more comfortable wearing said dresses. Baby steps! I’m already casually browsing online for a birthday dress (yes, my birthday is August; I like to plan ahead!). ModCloth is one of my usual go-to places for pretty, unique dresses and I’ve already bookmarked a few options. The one pictured above, the Pacific Host dress, is currently my favorite. I love the color and everyone who’s reviewed it has loved it. Fingers crossed it’s back in stock soon!

Anyone else looking forward to Easter weekend? I’ll be traveling to the ‘burbs to hang out with Alex’s family, which will be nice since I haven’t seen them since before Christmas. I also decided to take Monday off and stretch out this weekend a bit. I really hope we’ll be able to squeeze in visiting 5 Rabbit’s taproom before we head back into the city.

five things friday – april 11

Oh hey there. Lately, I’ve been in a bit of writing slump, so I’ve been looking to other blogs for some inspiration on what kind of posts to create. One of the most common ones I’ve always enjoyed is Five Things Friday, so I’ve decided to jump on the bandwagon. This way, I can share a mix of random stuff like recipes/food, music, other blogs, and anything else I love at the moment all in one post. Does that make me a lazy blogger? Possibly. ANYWAY.

cauli_new

[photo courtesy of The First Mess]

Cauliflower as rice. Ok, I know what you’re thinking: Rice is already delicious, why would I replace it with cauliflower? I know, I know. But hear me out! I’ve discovered that cauliflower is pretty much the most versatile vegetable ever. When cooked properly, it takes on the appearance and texture of rice, and of course is really, really yummy. Also: it’s super low in calories, while rice is unfortunately not. My favorite dish so far as been ginger fried cauliflower rice from A Cozy Kitchen. Alex and I have even made cauliflower crust pizza that is really amazing as well. This recipe for “rice and beans” from The First Mess is definitely next on our list of dishes to make.

newflats

New flats. As spring-like weather has begun to grace us with its presence this week, I’ve finally been able to bust out these flats I bought at Target. Once I see a pair of cute shoes I like, I tend to buy them immediately lest they sell out. Case in point: I may or may not have driven to the suburbs once to find a pair of boots I really, really wanted. True story… maybe. So I’ve been breaking in these shoes this week and have already gotten a few compliments from my co-workers. It also helps that they’re super comfy. If you’re looking for a cute new pair of shoes, I can’t recommend these enough.

 


New music from Nickel Creek and Copeland. Not one but TWO bands that were on hiatus/broken up that I’ve always loved are putting out new albums. Nickel Creek’s new album A Dotted Line is now available, with the song above as one of the tracks. As for Copeland, I saw their farewell show in Austin in 2010 and was so bummed that it would be the first and last time I would hear their music live. But on April 1st (of all days), they announced plans for a new album, Ixora. Once it was safely established that they weren’t joking, I got really excited and pre-ordered the digital download.

 

5rabbit

[photo courtesy of 5 Rabbit]

5 Rabbit’s new taproom is open! I’m a big fan and supporter of all of Chicago’s breweries and 5 Rabbit is among one of my faves. Last summer, I was basically obsessed with their Paletas series. Their brewery store and tapoom has just opened to the public and I can’t wait to stop by. They’re out in Bedford Park, which is a bit of a trek for me but I’ll be in the southwest ‘burbs for Easter, so I just might talk Alex into taking a detour that weekend. :)

 

oberynmartell

And last but definitely not least, GAME OF THRONES. Okay yes, only one episode has aired this season so far. BUT YOU GUYS. It’s so good. So much stuff is going down this season and I’m pretty sure more of my favorite characters are going to die but I’m still super excited. And let’s be real, there was also one major part in the season premiere that everyone loved: OBERYN MOTHER-EFFIN’ MARTELL. The Red Viper established immediately that he’s pretty awesome, quick on the draw, and is not fucking around. I can’t wait to see what trouble he causes for the Lannisters.

Have a great weekend! I’ll be back next week with a Geeky and Girly post, and possibly a weekend recap.

music of the moment: radical face

First off, I have to say that January ended on a not so great note. Alex came down with the flu and I in turn got sick as well. We spent the last few days of January quarantined in our apartment, taking meds, drinking our weight in fluids, and sleeping. This combined with the drop in temperature and large amounts of snow have made me fairly grumpy. I’m definitely over winter and for good reason; in the seven and a half years I’ve lived in/around Chicago, this has been the coldest and snowiest winter to date. It’s actually been the 4th snowiest winter PERIOD. The last time Chicago saw this much snow was in the 1970s. I wasn’t even ALIVE yet! So here’s hoping February is a little less painful than January was.

I’ve been listening to my Iron and Wine Pandora station nonstop during my commute and when this song came up, I immediately became obsessed with it. I’ve heard Radical Face on this and other Pandora stations I have but there’s something about this particular song that I really love.

What have you been listening to lately? Are you as over winter as I am?

project treat yoself.

I know that I already listed some goals I have for this year earlier this month, but this isn’t really a goal. I’ve decided that between sticking to my budget, putting money into my savings and 401K, paying off credit cards, and trying to save up for some specific big purchases (like a vacation and furniture), I’m not good at buying things I want for myself. I tend to think about money in the long-term, so beyond buying the occasional article of clothing (almost always with a coupon of some kind), I don’t buy myself any treats. Hence: Operation Treat Yoself.

For those not familiar with the reference, it’s from Parks and Rec:

parks-and-rec-treat-yo-self

Retta knows what’s up.

When I see something I really like but don’t purchase immediately, it ends up in one of my many folders on Evernote. Lately, I’ve noticed I’ve bookmarked more and more things, but have yet to commit to buying myself any of them. So, from here on out, I’m going to make genuine effort to treat myself at least once a month to something I want, whether or not I really need it. I’ve limited myself to $100 a month; treating myself can be a little bit of a splurge, but nothing crazy. While it’s important to be financially responsible, it also definitely doesn’t hurt to buy yourselves a thing or two every so often. Here are a few things that I intend to treat myself to in the coming months:

currentlylovingPictured above: mint & gold stripes iPhone case; black and gold shoes; Coffee&Beer&Coffee&Beer tee; Warby Parker glasses (which would be my 2nd pair)

I’ve already started this month, by treating myself to a trip to the salon. My hair was in serious need of TLC and I feel so much better now. This post basically serves a reminder that I need to treat myself. And I hope this inspires some of you to remember to buy yourself something nice every so often. :)

geeky and girly, vol. 7

Geeky & Girly (1)

Alright! I finally have time to work on another edition of Geeky & Girly. I’ve even made a graphic to attach to all future posts (thanks to Canva). From the long list of cool and cute stuff I’ve been keeping track of, first up is something geeky:

Coin is one of the coolest sounding pieces of technology I’ve heard about in a long time. This is definitely something to look into if you have several cards living in your wallet at the moment and/or have a tendency to misplace said cards. Plus, it’s synced to your phone so if you do accidentally leave it behind at a restaurant or a bar, your phone will let you know. How awesome is that? Coin launches next year but they’re taking preorders now.

And now for something girly:

candystripers_alt1_600

The folks over at Pinch Provisions have created mini emergency kits that easily fit into your bag in case you’re ever in a pinch (pun totally intended). The kit pictured above comes with 17 must-have beauty and personal items, including hairspray, earring backs, lip balm, tampons, stain remover, and mending kit. The bags comes in different designs and there are also kits available for men and wedding parties.

What cool stuff have you seen or heard about lately? Please share!