so here’s to 2015.

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Well hello there, shiny new year! It’s nice to see you. 2014 was one for the books but I have a feeling 2015 is gonna be pretty damn good.

The first four days of this year were nice and relaxed; I took an extra day off work to make it an extra long weekend and just out at home, cleaning and doing laundry. I did some yoga, I squeezed in a lady date, had drinks with friends, and I also had a cozy night in with veggie chili and beer.

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The big thing happening this year? Well, I’m getting married in approximately 261 days (according to our registry anyway). With that comes a name change (which I hear is a big pain in the butt but I’m going to do it anyway), combined finances, and calling Alex my husband. Kinda crazy, but exciting at the same time. We’ve talked a lot about what marriage means to us and have both agreed that our relationship/partnership is great the way it is; getting married won’t change that. On a lesser note, this is also the year I turn 29. Yay?

As for resolutions, I’m not super big of setting any. But I do want to set the right tone for this year, so I’ve set some short term and long term goals:

1. Pay off credit cards and save — My credit card debt climbed up quite a bit thanks to the holidays but I’ve officially put myself on a spending freeze until at least three are paid off. It’s definitely doable; I just need to get out of my bad habit on randomly purchasing/splurging on stuff I don’t really need. I also turned back on my automatic deposit to my savings account since we have a trip to Texas coming up in June AND we are officially moving again at the end of April. I’ve got a payment schedule put together and I’m using Ready for Zero to monitor my cards and loans. 2015: the year of fiscal responsibility!

2. Try new classes at my gym & incorporate more yoga — I put a lot more effort into working out and eating well beginning in mid-2014. And you know what? It paid off, because I’ve lost 18 pounds since then. It’s crazy to me how heavy I was at the beginning of the year, but I’ve made some huge strides. I still indulge during the weekend (I could never completely give up beer) and it’s made me realize that I don’t have to starve myself to lose weight. This year, I want to keep up that momentum while trying out new workouts via online videos and my gym, while also trying to squeeze in yoga once a week. Doing yoga on New Years Day, even just for 30 minutes, reminded me how nice it is to relax and stretch your body. I’d also like to lose a bit more weight, but I’m trying not to make that the focus of my goal.

3. In with the old AND the new — Looking back, this was a goal of mine last year and I completely failed to make it happen, but I still really want to start using my 35mm camera again. And I actually have film sitting around at home too, so I really have no excuse. As for the new, I’ve finished up all the HTML/CSS courses on Codeacademy and am slowly moving into Javascript and JQuery. I’m also thinking about taking some Skillcrush classes later on this year, if I manage to stay on track with the free courses first.

Other than those three main goals, I’m going to be taking this year as it comes. I hope I can make time to write, I hope I keep learning and growing, and above all, I hope it’s fun.

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We’re finally getting some snow around these parts and a bitter cold has set in this week. I guess this is Chicago’s not-so-gentle way of reminding us that yes, it is winter and that the month of December and it’s strangely mild weather just led us into a false sense of security. I’ll try not to let the sub-zero temps get to me so early into the year.

Happy New Year to everyone out there. What do you wanna see happen in 2015?

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dreaming of a white christmas

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Fact: I love Christmas. I have an abundance of Christmas spirit for someone who’s agnostic. I love giving gifts, baking nonstop, and just generally being full of Christmas cheer. I’ve always loved this time of year; when I was a kid, I spent every Christmas at my grandma’s house with my entire family (my mom is one of 10 kids, so there’s a lot of us). As I got older, my sister and I created our own traditions surrounding Christmas, which includes baking as many cookies as possible and watching Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas.

Another holiday tradition is my annual trip home to south Texas to be with my family. This time last year, I was already there. But as I write this, I’m sitting at my desk in my office, answering last-minute emails and squeezing in some work. I’ll be spending Christmas this year with Alex’s family in the ‘burbs. This is my first Christmas EVER without my family.

I knew it was bound to happen sooner or later, but it still feels strange knowing I won’t be seeing my parents or my sister in the next couple of days. Because of this, I’m so glad they were here in Chicago for Thanksgiving. We did manage to fit in a few Christmas-y activities, including going to the Museum of Science and Industry to see the exhibit of Christmas trees from around the world (pictured above!).

Not only that, my family got to experience real snow for the first time. They were so hilariously excited about it and took an endless amount of pictures.

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Left: My little sister and I trying on some pretty awesome Christmas gear.
Right: My sister and mom completely spazzing out over the snow.

I know I’m going to be homesick no matter what come Wednesday, but I’m so glad I have my future in-laws and the rest of the Martinez clan to spend the holiday with. My family is expanding and from here on out, it’s going to be important that we split our time equally among everyone.

While I could wax nostalgic about a bunch of things and mull over the end of the year, I just want to enjoy this week. Merry Christmas and happy holidays! See you all in 2015.

this is not a wedding blog.

And it won’t become one, I swear! But I AM engaged and thus, have been planning my wedding. Right off the bat, I poured over Pinterest for DAYS, trying to comprehend how much time, effort, and money this was going to take. I’m relatively laid-back and I haven’t been to many weddings lately, so I had no idea where to start. Cue me becoming overwhelmed and Alex taking my phone away.

I’m really lucky that my future husband is incredibly patient with me and also wants to be an active participant in the planning process. Like I mentioned in my last post, we’ve managed to find a venue AND a caterer, two things that I consider to be pretty freaking important. Getting both of these locked down has only been possible because we’re planning this together and know what we want.

So, I’ll start with our venue.

We looked at quite a few. mostly because I did tons of research like a crazy person. First, we were open to the idea of restaurants that doubled as event spaces. There were two specifically we really liked and were among the first to look at. The only problem? We’re having a pretty small wedding (no more than 100 people) and these venues, while they provide seating, tables, glassware, and food, all have minimums in place that need to be reached. Because of our wedding’s potential size, there was no way we could reach said minimums without ordering way more food and booze than we would probably need.

And so, onto the next set of venues, which were most loft spaces. I love the idea of getting married in a loft space (because I love the combination of brick and wood throughout) but again: these places were really big. One was so huge that we only would have needed about half of the event space, but would have still paid the same price. I was almost ready to give up hope and resign myself to a hotel ballroom, but we saw two more venues. And of course, the very last one was my favorite, for lots of reasons: it’s the most reasonably priced, has enough space for both the ceremony and reception but is the perfect size for our wedding, and is in a convenient location.

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The backroom of Floating World, where we’ll hold the ceremony, then dancing and drinks after dinner. The paper lanterns are included!

So it’s been decided: we’re getting married at Floating World Gallery in Lincoln Park. I never thought I’d be getting married in an art gallery, but it really is perfect for our needs. I would have thought it would be a hidden gem of sorts, but it’s actually quite popular. So popular that their Saturdays were all booked up by the time we found it, so we compromised and settled for a Friday. September 25th of next year to be exact.

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I didn’t take a decent picture of the front room, but this shot by Steve Koo showcases how beautiful it is. Love the brick wall and warm colors!

As for our caterer, Alex took care of contacting our first choice caterer, including squeezing in a tasting with the owner before we signed our contract and made it official. Our caterer only does smaller weddings (no more than 120) and only one wedding per day (unlike others, who might take on multiple weddings a day with different teams). Once again, totally perfect for our needs.

Between the two of us, we’ve pretty much been on a roll but are currently on a break from planning due to the holidays. We’ll pick up in January; I think I even talked him into attending Indie Wed with me. It probably helps that this event is within walking distance of our apartment.

So before I even think about flowers, color schemes, and bridesmaid dresses, I’m going to enjoy my favorite holiday first. :)

five things friday – nov 20th

To give you an idea of how much I’ve been procrastinating when it comes to my blog, I have been putting off this Five Things Friday post since Oct. 17th. YIKES. But here I am, making a little effort since I finally feel like I have some time to do so.

I’m realizing that writing for myself only happens on a rare instance these days and I want to try and battle against that. Not too long, I wrote pretty much everything down and these days, I hardly make the effort. Sure, I tweet and post pictures on Instagram but I’m not archiving thoughts and memories like I used to. I probably won’t ever get to the same consistency again, but I’ll still try.

So what I have I been up to? Wedding planning has been a constant for the last couple of months; we’ve actually locked down our date, venue, and caterer already, so I feel pretty accomplished. I could go into more details on all that, but I’ll save that for another day.

I’ve also been gearing up for my family’s visit (they get in on Monday morning!) and Christmas shopping. I really love celebrating Christmas. Our tree will go up next Friday, I’ll scan Black Friday sales (but I shop from the comfort of my own home), and prepare to bake an obscene amount of goodies over the next couple of weeks. Since I’ll be in Chicago this year, I’ll most likely be putting together little care packages for all my friends filled with cookies and cupcakes since my extended family won’t be around to eat everything I bake.

Alright, now to the point of this post! Five things I’m currently loving:

(1) I’m sort of obsessed with trying and/or making delicious-sounding fall cocktails. I’ve bookmarked so many pages that there’s no possible way I’ll get around to making all of them, but these two are the must-haves at the top of my list:

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I love making sangria. I have a go-to recipe I always use but this autumn sangria made with apples, pomegranates, and figs sounds too good to pass up. And this spiced pear and bourbon cocktail is something I know my whiskey-loving fiance would enjoy. For even more fall cocktails, check out the lists put together by Glitter Guide and The Everygirl.


(2)
Since the holidays are around the corner, hot chocolate is another staple in my apartment. Why I love my usual recipe–a tablet of Abuelita chocolate, skim milk, and a peppermint stick–this hot chocolate guide from SheKnows is awesome enough to inspire me to try something new:

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It doesn’t end there though! They also have a few choice recipes to choose from, including red velvet hot chocolate. All this is enough to inspire me to try making my own marshmallows as well.


(3)
I’m really excited to go check out Warby Parker’s first frame studio in the Midwest, which is right here in Chicago (in Lincoln Park to be exact). The space looks so cute and they’re offering free portrait sessions, which I definitely need to take them up on. I just bought my 2nd pair of frames from WP recently but Alex is in need of new frames himself, so he’ll be my excuse to go check out their storefront. :)

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Learn more about the store here; they’re located at 837 West Armitage Ave.


(4) 
So if you’re like me, you’ve come to associate the song “God Only Knows” (originally by The Beach Boys, of course) with the airport scene from Love Actually. Dorky, I know BUT it’s one of my favorite holiday movies (#1 is Elf because it’s amazing) and when I found out about the BBC’s version filled with tons of artists (Lorde, Elton John, Florence and Machine, Sam Smith, and even Dave Grohl), I immediately loved it:


(5) Last but definitely not least, I legitimately cackled when I saw this on tumblr yesterday:

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For those who might not get the reference, it’s one of many random lines from Paul Rudd’s ridiculous character in the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall. And because of Chicago’s notorious, ever-changing weather regardless of the season, I find myself singing this pretty regularly. So much so that when I showed this to Alex, he knew it was something I needed to own. It’s definitely on my Christmas wish list now!

This weekend is filled with preparing for my family’s arrival on Monday, and then a fun-filled week with them in town ending with Thanksgiving. Enjoy the holiday!

’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.

currently, september edition

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Oh hey, it’s September! The month started out great; Alex and I did some housesitting in the ‘burbs over the long holiday. The Renegade Craft Fair was last weekend and I finally got to take Alex to Xoco, which is still super tasty. I’m also convinced they have some of the best horchata that I’ve ever had there. And this weekend is Riot Fest! It’s basically been nonstop around here.

Listening to: I am beyond excited for Copeland’s new album! Their newest song, Ordinary, is so good and is the exact sort of music I listen to in the fall; soft, sweet, and soothing. They’re one of my favorite bands and recently reunited. I’ve only seen them once live and it was actually during their farewell tour; I was so bummed at the thought of never hearing new music from them again.

Thinking about: Oh I dunno… the fact that I got ENGAGED TWO WEEKS AGO? It’s pretty crazy. Alex caught me completely and totally by surprise; I never realized that he had been out and about with his parents looking for jewelers to custom make my ring. I came home before Labor Day weekend complaining about a tooth ache and my lack of motivation for going to the gym that evening. He responded by asking him to marry him. I’m sure he’s looking forward to dealing with my whining for the rest of EVER now.

Looking forward to: Thanksgiving! Ok, it’s a couple of months away, but my parents are coming into town for the first time in years to meet Alex’s family and spend the holiday here with us. I’m so excited to take them around Chicago. So far, I think I’ll take them to Eataly (which my dad is super excited about), the Christkindlmarket, and possibly ice skating downtown.

Reading: About to crack into Mockingjay again to refresh my memory before watching the final Hunger Games movie. After that, I should probably make a list of books to either buy myself or ask for this Christmas.

Watching: Brooklyn Nine Nine and Bojack Horseman. Alex and I have rewatched the first season of B99 because it’s so freaking hilarious. I can’t wait for the new season to start (along with the return of all shows I watch). Bojack Horseman is a strange but weirdly funny show from Netflix that stars Will Arnett as a washed up sitcom star who is also (you guessed it!) a horse. It somehow works, so I recommend you check it out.

Making me happy: New sweaters and boots. Abuelita chocolate creamer (which I never knew I needed until now because it’s AMAZING). The return of pumpkin beers.

Fall is basically around the corner, if not already here. The temperature has dipped significantly in the last couple of days, so I may as well embrace it, right?

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:

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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 – august 8th

Hey there! So I’ve been 28 for a full week now. I can’t say that I feel any different, but it does feel weird to say I’m 28. For whatever reason, it seems like a much larger number than 27. Maybe it’s just me freaking out internally since 30 is just around the corner (yiiiikes). Anyway, I celebrated my birthday with my closest friends and delicious drinks (like a blueberry margarita, which was SO GOOD). I had wanted to post this last week, but birthday shenanigans got into the way. And now, here are five things on a Friday:

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I’m going to let you guys in on a secret: I don’t like baking pies. I have pie fear, in the sense that I believe if I try to bake a pie, it will not turn out well. I made an apple pie once, with sub-par results. I’m not sure if it was the crust or the filling, but I didn’t love it and have avoided making them since. However, I recently discovered an equally delicious pie alternative: galettes. You guys, how did I not know about galettes until just now? Seriously, they’re so much easier to make and don’t require the top crust layer (which I think has also played a role in my pie-related downfall). Last weekend, I made this peach galette and looooved it. The recipe calls for either vegetable shortening or coconut oil in the crust; do yourself a favor and go the coconut oil route. It’s much better for you, I promise.

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I stumbled onto this website the other day and it’s such a cool concept, especially for those of us who might not be naturally gifted crafters. Darby Smart has a variety of craft project to choose from and they provide you with all the materials. Their projects range from easy to advanced, so you can make anything from a terrarium to your own gin (seriously). It’s definitely worth checking out!

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I really loved The Avengers when it came out (my undying devotion to Joss Whedon probably helped in that) but I was also a big fan of The Guardians of the Galaxy. I typically avoid watching movies during their opening weekend, especially big blockbusters like this one. But Alex and I, along with his sister, spontaneously decided to squeeze it in last Saturday. It also helped that our favorite theater has recently renovated, so they offer leather recliners and assigned seating. Seriously though, GO WATCH IT. Such a fun movie; it also helps that it doesn’t have any of the painful dialogue in other summer blockbusters (I’m looking at you, Michael Bay).

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Fact: I love local breweries in Chicago. I’ve been trying a lot new beers from Pipeworks and Spiteful Brewing, both of whom are known for doing creative, small batches of beer, the majority of which are just a one-time thing. This past week, I had Surrounded by Friends, With Machetes from Pipeworks, Goddamn Chocolate Banana Pigeon Porter and Worst Commuter Belgian Tripel from Spiteful. In case you didn’t notice, both breweries also tend to come up with giggle-worthy names for their beers.

And finally, I leave with my latest summer jam: Cool Kids by Echosmith. It’s a fun indie pop song I’ve been listening to pretty much nonstop.

Enjoy the weekend! I know I will.

making the most of summer

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Man, it really feels like summer is flying by. My birthday (this Friday!) really snuck up on me. Didn’t I just get back from Austin?

This summer so far has been a series of highs and lows; lots of great food and drinks, sunny weather, and adventures. But I’ve also had two good friends move away (to LA and Denver, respectively) and work has had me stressed out lately. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love summers in Chicago. Like everyone else, I’m trying to make the most of the warm weather here while it lasts. Most of my weekends have been jam-packed with things to see and do, but a lot of it hasn’t really ended up on my blog or other social media channels. There’s a reason for this though and that’s because I’m trying to make a honest effort to enjoy the moment instead of being busy trying to capture it.

I can still remember my favorite summer to date: the summer of 2007. It was the summer before my senior year of college and when I turned 21. I lived in an apartment with four friends and no air-conditioning while juggling three jobs (working at my university’s summer newspaper, interning at a magazine, and working at a local cafe). It was also the first summer I spent in Chicago and it still feels like it’s been the best one so far. When we all weren’t working, my group of friends and I ran around the city in our free time, taking everything in. This was the summer they filmed The Dark Knight in Chicago, so I felt like we were always on the lookout for the Batmobile. On late nights when we couldn’t sleep, we’d drive down Lake Shore Drive and through the empty downtown streets.

While I have great memories of that summer and lots of pictures from it, we didn’t have smartphones back then. I wasn’t compelled to constantly check in on Foursquare, or check Twitter and Facebook, or perfectly style photos for Instagram. These are bad habits a lot of us have and because of them, we can miss out on a lot.

This past weekend, I had brunch with my boyfriend and friends at the Trenchermen and then headed to Wicker Park Fest. We topped off the afternoon with a pitcher of sangria at Black Bull Tapas. Not only was it fun and relaxing, it was also a phone-free day. I left my phone in my bag and instead paid attention to the people I was with and what was going on around me. While I didn’t capture any moments throughout the day, I realized I didn’t always need to. And imagine my surprise when I finally did look at my phone and my battery was only at 90%; if you’re like me, you’re used to see your battery at around 50% (or lower) by the early evening.

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There’s nothing wrong with stopping to take a photo while doing something fun or memorable. The photos I’ve included in this post were from my friend Matt’s last night in Chicago; we bought drinks and snacks and hung out on his rooftop for hours. I knew it was an event I quickly want to capture (and ok, post to Instagram) before focusing on my friends.

So yes, take some photos. But after you do, put your phone away (or hell, even turn it off) and be in the moment. Enjoy what you’re experiencing instead of trying to get as many likes as possible. Summer, while fleeting, becomes much more memorable that way.

How’s your summer so far?

our trip to austin, tx

Our vacation quickly came and went, and I immediately hit the ground running once I got back to work. It’s only now that I’ve managed to carve out some time to sit down and blog about our trip. Hurray for four day weekends!

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I will admit, being back in Austin was a little weird. It was both exactly the way I remembered and incredibly different, all at once. It’s grown significantly since I moved away, but I was glad to see some of my favorite places were still around and doing well. I feel like the best way to break down this trip is talk about the highlights from each day:

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Our first day in town involved getting lunch at Torchy’s (man, did I miss those fried avocado tacos) and talking around South Congress before checking in at our Airbnb in East Austin. We then made our way out to the Alamo Drafthouse at Slaughter Lane for dinner and beers while watching the new X-Men movie. Alex says that he would move to Austin for the Drafthouse alone and I kinda don’t blame him; it’s easily the best way to watch a movie.

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On our 2nd day, we had lunch at Frank and watched a World Cup game. It was a little before noon, but that definitely didn’t stop us from getting drinks with our meal. My cocktail was called La Sandia, which is watermelon puree and mezcal with a chili salt rim. It’s easily the best think I drank during this vacation and I’ll probably spend the majority of the summer trying to replicate it. Alex also had his first Frito pie ever and was a big fan; I told my sister later on that day that he had never had one before and she was surprised/horrified. Not everyone grows up eating chili and cheese in a bag of Fritos, but she still seem baffled.

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One of the things I always loved about Austin was the awesome street art. We stopped by the HOPE Outdoor Art Gallery at my suggestion (I had read about it randomly before our trip) and it was pretty amazing. It’s an abandoned condo development turned art gallery, with layers upon layers of graffiti and art pieces spread throughout the cement walls.

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Of course, no trip to Austin would be complete without stopping by my favorite cupcake shop of all time: Sugar Mama’s. The red velvet cupcake is awesome as I remember it.

austin6austin10Our third day in town was a day of beer. We drove out to Jester King Brewery, a good 40 minutes outside of Austin proper. If you haven’t heard about this brewery, this Good Beer Hunting article is really great. We sampled all of the beers that they had on tap (which are on rotation every week) and got to enjoy the gorgeous weather with their outdoor seating. Afterwards, we headed to the Draughthouse, a great beer bar near my old apartment on 45th St. My favorite beer there was the Guadalupe Brewing Texas Honey Ale; not too sweet or light with a decent ABV.

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East Austin has expanded so much over the last few years; we spent our Sunday walking around and exploring the neighborhood. I wish I could start every day with breakfast tacos from Tamale House East, because that’s how amazing they were. We also ended the day at my old favorite bar on the east side, Rio Rita.

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But in-between the beginning and the end of that Sunday, we headed to the Rainey Street to check out Bangers for beer and sausages (veggie sausage for me, of course) before heading over to the Mohawk to catch the last half of the US vs Portugal game before seeing the Mountain Goats. The only other time I’ve seen them live was in Austin, so maybe I’ll only ever see them perform in Texas.

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Last but not least, on our last morning in Austin, Alex and I went to Gourdough’s Public House for breakfast in the form of giant doughnuts. I had the Freebird, a doughnut topped with cream cheese, fresh fruit, and graham cracker crumbs. So, so good.

So yes, we had lots of food and beer on this trip. I got to see my college buddy Steve and hang out with my family for an evening. It was nice to be in Austin again, but somehow, it also reminded me why I left. Say what you will about Chicago, but I have a lot of love for this city. I’ll always be a Texan at heart, but I’m going to be a Chicagoan for the long haul.

Even though it feels like we just got back from this trip, today is day one of my four day weekend. This is me not complaining though. Over the next few days, we’ll enjoy the beautiful weather, grill with Alex’s folks, and say goodbye to a dear friend of mine. But that’s for another blog post.