Feb 032013
 

It’s been over a month since I’ve posted.  Sorry about that.  It’s been a whirlwind of visiting home for the holidays and hectic craziness at work.  Last I wrote I was about to take off for the US for the holidays.  Mike and I spent 6 days in LA, 6 days in Chicago, and 1 night in DC for a wedding.  That last travel day was horrendous: DC to LA, 6 hour layover in LA, LA to London, 8 hour layover in London, London to Dar, 6 hour layover in Dar, then finally Dar to Nairobi.  Whew!  We were beat.

But here are some of the highlights from our visit home.

We got to spend a half day in NYC because we had to spend 1 night there due to our flight layover on the way back home.  This was really nice because it broke up our flights a bit and we got to see NYC at one of my favorite times: Christmas!  It was freezing and we didn’t have our cold weather gear with us, so we were lucky enough to borrow some things for the day since we were staying at my brother’s apartment.  Early morning, we took the subway to Grand Central and walked along 5th avenue to see the tree at Rockefeller Center and the beautiful windows at Bergdorf’s.  They always have the best windows!

Visiting the Tree

Visiting the Tree

Fantasmical Bergdorf Holiday Windows

Fantasmical Bergdorf Holiday Windows

It was funny that after being away for so long, we definitely had moments that lit us up, like: Starbucks!  Egg sandwiches with manchego and chorizo from the market!  Subways!  Oh New York, how I love thee.

Then it was off to LA, where the jet lag hit us pretty bad for about half the week.  LA is always busy packed because I have a lot of relatives and friends to see.  You can bet that every meal is planned!  It was all about what do we want to eat that we can’t get in Nairobi.  For us, that’s Asian food and sushi.  They have it here, but it’s nowhere close.  So we went to the usuals, Cho Dang for soon dubu (Korean tofu stew), Nozomi for the uni bowl (sea urchin sushi), Din Tai Fung for soup dumplings, and of course home cooked food for Christmas.

Mom and Eric Noshing on Korean BBQ

Mom and Eric Noshing on Korean BBQ

It was nice to walk around Hermosa Beach one night and we got to see an amazing sunset.  The ocean was jet black and the sun was already down, but the horizon was still lit up with orange.  It was surreal being at the end of the pier and staring into the blackness.  It was unusually clear that day, not a cloud in the sky.

Beautiful Hermosa Beach Pier After Sunset

Beautiful Hermosa Beach Pier After Sunset

After LA, we headed to Chicago to see Mike’s family.  Matt and Sue moved into a gorgeous new home so that was really fun to see and they a kitchen that is to die for.  We especially loved seeing our niece and nephew, Hailey and Mitchell.  Aren’t they the cutest?

Cutest Niece and Nephew Ever

Cutest Niece and Nephew Ever

Since it was freezing in Chicago, we didn’t much outdoors, but Mike and I went on mall walks with his mom and dad at the huge Gurnee Mills outlets.  It was pretty hilarious because Mike kept trying to cut corners.  New Year’s Eve, Matt and Sue had some friends over and we cooked a huge feast of lobsters and steak.  We saved the lobster shells to make some stock, and had some delicious lobster risotto the following day.  I used this recipe and added 1/3 cup cream and shredded Parmesan cheese at the end.  Also added asparagus and mushrooms to give it some good texture.  So yum.

Chicago Fam

Chicago Fam

One really fun activity we did was going to Hailey’s school to collect chicken eggs.  Her school has a farm on the grounds where the kids can volunteer to help take care of it.  Hailey loves egg collecting, so we were lucky to have her show us the ropes.  You go into the chicken coop and reach in to collect the eggs on the shelves.  Then there’s a whole process of how you clean the eggs and check for any cracks with a light.  Was such a unique experience and we brought home some freshly laid eggs.  In total, we packed 98 eggs into cartons!  And that was the second collection of the day too.

Farmer for a Day!

Farmer for a Day!

After Chicago, we did a whirlwind 24 hours in DC for one of Mike’s college friend’s wedding.  Was fun to see his William & Mary friends and of course we always love going to weddings.

After that, it was time to head on the plane for the long long journey back.  It was so nice to be home though and we miss our friends and family very much!

 February 3, 2013  Posted by at 5:16 pm California, Chicago, Illinois, Los Angeles Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  1 Response »
Aug 252012
 

I mentioned in an earlier post that when I come to Chicago, there are 3 things on my list of must-dos.  Well, Tank Noodle was closed on the day we went down in to the city, so we had to make the trek when we were down there for the wedding.  I would come here while I was in business school and it was always a treat.  I still think of it as the best pho I’ve ever had.  I think I’m biased mostly by the delicious beef tendon they have.  It’s the best beef tendon because its cooked until it’s super soft–if you have bad tendon it will be hard and chewy.  The broth is flavorful and the noodles are tasty.  Mike and I took the red line El north of the city and you get off of at the Argyle stop, which is known as little Vietnam.  It’s essentially one block filled with Vietnamese restaurants and shops.  I’ve never eaten at any of the other places because Tank is just to good to pass up.  It’s funny because when I met up with my friend Heidi who still lives in the city, I mentioned that I need to go to my pho place and she responds, “What, Tank?”  So people just know. =)

Craving satisfied!

Get in My Face

 August 25, 2012  Posted by at 1:15 am Chicago, Food, Illinois Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  No Responses »
Aug 242012
 

We planned our Chicago trip so that we would be in town for the wedding of two of our business school friends.  This was our last weekend in Chicago and we got a hotel room at the JW Marriott with Mike’s hotel points (thank you, consulting!).  When we checked into our room, we knew it was going to be good when we got to the room and it was a double door.  Cha-ching!  They had upgraded us to the Vice Presidential suite since Mike has Platinum status.  We will enjoy it while it lasts…

So we open the door and our jaw drops because we step into a beautiful huge room with an 8 person dining room table and gorgeous couch.  To the right is a small kitchen complete with fridge and dishwasher, and to the left is an office.  Through another set of double doors is the bedroom and the bathroom is just as ridiculous.  The mirror has a TV embedded into it!!!  When it’s off, it’s a mirror and you turn it on and it blends right in.  Even tub has its own “infinity” edge.  Too bad it was only for one night.

Our Suite!

Who Watches TV in the Bathroom?!

That night we went to the wedding at the Chicago Illuminating Company in South Loop.  It was a beautiful modern space and everything was perfect!  It was funny that the ceremony area would darken every time the subway would pass overhead but didn’t disturb it too much.  I had injured my toe a few days before (I know, so many injuries!) and it was bandaged and throbbing, but that didn’t stop me from going nuts on the dance floor.  It was tons of fun but my toe definitely hated me in the morning.

A Beautiful Wedding

Our hotel suite actually came in really handy after the wedding because we took the after party there!  What better place to fit 30 people lugging pizza and drinks?  It was such a good time that security came up at 2:30am telling us to knock it off.  Party was shutting down anyway.  We have another wedding we’re attending in wine country, CA in a couple of weeks–looking forward to that one also.

 August 24, 2012  Posted by at 11:01 am Chicago, Illinois Tagged with: , , , , , ,  No Responses »
Aug 232012
 

On one of our days downtown, Mike and I went to check out the Art Institute.  The first and second Wednesdays of the month are free for Illinois residents (and Mike still has his Illinois driver’s license).  I managed to score a ticket from someone who had just left the museum so I got in for free too!  The last time I was there was during my solo visit to Northwestern to check out Kellogg Business School before I applied.  I wandered the city, went to a Hubbard Street Dance performance, and rode the Navy Pier ferris wheel with the company of me, myself, and I.

Mainly, we went to the Art Institute for the old time New York photo exhibit which has a special place in my heart.  I love the old city photos and all of the Photo League stuff.  There’s something amazing about seeing the city you live in as a foreign yet still familiar place.  You just get this feeling that…life goes on.  People come and go and the city is there, ever changing but ever permanent.  The exhibit itself was really small, on the basement floor, and while there were some nice photos, they weren’t as good as I’d seen elsewhere.

The star of our visit was really the Roy Lichtenstein exhibit.  If you don’t know his name, you definitely know his art which is synonymous with American pop art. It had really wonderful pieces, here were some of my favorites:

3D Pop 

Always Justifying and Making Excuses…tsk tsk

Drama

After Lichtenstein’s phase of pop art where he focused on comic strip-type imagery, he played with different subjects but always kept his signature “dot” painting style.  I thought this painting of a seascape was really nice, it was done on a clear pane so it felt like you were looking through the glass.  Beautiful.

Seascape

It was a really nice time and just the perfect length of free museum time!  We’ve learned that museums are best done in 2-3 hour sessions so you don’t burn out and get art fatigue.

Aug 182012
 

There are few things I like to check off my list whenever I visit Chicago.  Those are: eat at Frontera Grill (Rick Bayless’s restaurant) and Tank Noodle (best pho) and shop at Akira (a local clothing boutique).  So one day we head downtown to check off #1 and #3…#2 was closed on Wednesdays, doh!

We’ve been to Frontera Grill a number of times and it’s always a favorite.  We took the Metra train downtown, which is about an hour and 15 min ride to Union Station.  Frontera Grill always has a long wait at lunch but we found two open chairs at the bar pretty quickly and avoided the 45 min wait.  We went at the end of the lunch rush, so that helped.  Always delicious!  We got the ceviche to start and I had the mole trio and Mike got the carne asada tacos.  We were stuffed afterwards but still went next door to Xoco (Rick Bayless’s more casual restaurant) to get their famous churros.

Albacore Ceviche

Red Mole Braised Pork, Poblano Mole Enchiladas, Yellow Mole with Roasted Vegetables

We walked around downtown after that and it was a beautiful summer day (before it started raining).  Chicago is beautiful in the summers with the river running through downtown.

The El

Beautiful Summer Day

 August 18, 2012  Posted by at 11:50 am Chicago, Food, Illinois Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  No Responses »
Aug 172012
 

While staying with Mike’s parents in Antioch (close to the Wisconsin border), we wanted to find a fun activity for the four of us to do.  I’d been wanting to visit a dairy farm (mostly to try various delicious treats like cheese and ice cream) but the closest ones we found were 2 hours away.  Too far.  Maybe next time?  Anyhow, we decided to go see the Frank Lloyd Wright homes in Oak Park, which is a neighborhood just west of downtown.  Mike had gone there as a field trip in high school and he even bought a guide/map so he could take his mom one day…25 years later.  Ha! 😉

We walked around the neighborhood to view some of his famous homes and also took a tour of his home and studio.  The neighborhood is really cute and is an old wealthy part of town.  The lot sizes and homes are just enormous!  Back in the day, as Wright was becoming an established architect, some of his neighbors commissioned him to design their homes, which is why there are so many in one place.  Here is the home is often shown as a great example of the prairie homes Wright is so well known for.  The emphasis is on the horizontal rather than the vertical, a departure from what was going on around him at the time.  It’s amazing that these homes that were built in the early 1900s can seem modern and not “old” at all.

Horizontal Lines of the Prairie Home

One of the things I love most about all his homes is how much they incorporate landscape into them.  Almost all the homes have huge built-in planters to make sure that nature is seamlessly a part of the exterior.  The attention to detail is incredible.  There are a lot of different styles in the surrounding blocks depending on the requests of the client.  Here is an interesting house with some Gothic elements and has really interesting embellishments.

Moore-Dugal Residence

One of the most fascinating parts of the Moore-Dugal residence are the chimneys.  I’ve never seen anything like it!  Very long and narrow.  Wright takes even a functional mundane aspect of a house and makes it interesting.

A Beautiful Chimney

Here is a home with beautiful wood paneling on the outside that again was extremely modern for its times.  The curve of the wood around the outside is amazing and the overhang of the porch is also finished with wood underneath as well.  I love his leaded glass windows everywhere.  He used a lot of those since they provided good light with privacy.

Beautiful Woodwork on the Outside

We were thinking about taking the tour of his home and studio and were wavering a bit since it was $15/person and we weren’t sure if it would be any good.  Good thing we went for it!!  We committed because Mike found a book in the gift shop about his home and when we flipped open the pages, we were stunned by the photos.  Definitely do it if you can!  It is truly amazing to step inside his home and look at how he thought of every single detail.  Everything is custom built and designed.

Built-in Fireplace Nook Complete with Curtains

He worked with different ideas to create space or make rooms more intimate.  My ultimate favorite was the dining room with its high backed chairs and an amazing intricately carved screen above the table.  The screen is the same size of the table and is meant to make the room more intimate by bringing the ceiling lower.  Each of the chairs has a high back to frame each guests face to encourage conversation.  Just simply beautiful.

Can I Please Have an Intricately Carved Screen Above My Dining Room Table?

After touring his home, we went over to the adjoining connected studio where he would work with his team.  When you first walk in, it literally takes your breath away and your jaw drops.  It’s an octagonal room with high ceilings and very open.  There is light pouring in through the windows up top.  Definitely an inspiring place to work.

Wright’s Studio

In the waiting room of the studio where he would keep clients, there is an amazing glass skylight with Art Deco patterns.  When you’re in the room, it bathes you in a golden-green light.  The contrast of the glass with the dark wooden beams was amazing.

Beautiful Art Deco Glass Skylight

All in all, an amazing experience and totally blew my mind.  It seems back then more people designed their own homes and today, only the extremely wealth can afford to do so.  Touring the home made you really appreciate the potential for a home to be truly beautiful.  It definitely inspires me to one day perhaps explore what it would take to design your own home.  Or at least maybe one room of it? 😉

Aug 072012
 

Yesterday Mike and I drove downtown to have lunch with an old friend of mine from Culture Shock Chicago, the hip hop troupe I used to dance with.  We once again went down to Wicker Park and had a great meal at Bongo Room.  I had danced with Culture Shock LA for 2 years and then I went to business school, I wanted to keep it up and rode the train over an hour each way to make practice.  During the first rehearsal, I met Heidi who worked in advertising (like I used to!) and she had just moved to Chicago as well!  Me, Heidi, and Ruby who had just moved to Chicago as well were soon fast friends in Culture Shock.  It was a really fun time and I’m glad I had friends outside of business school in Chicago and dance friends to go out dancing with!

A lot has changed since we met 6 years ago.  Heidi doesn’t work in advertising anymore and is a personal trainer with her massage license.  I always admire people who are brave enough to leave the corporate world and pursue what they really love.  She looks amazing and had just gone rucking the day before, which means a 2 hour run with a 35 lb pack on your back.  Insane!  Especially in this Chicago heat.  She shared that she and her boyfriend were planning on moving to Hawaii next year (they have always loved it there and have many friends there).  Very exciting and of course made me extremely jealous since I have my own love affair with Hawaii.  I lived there for a brief stint with two girlfriends from Cal and we had the bestest of summers.  Amazingly, they had come to “set me up” for the summer but it was them who never took their return flights home.  One is still there and the other stayed for 3 years.  It was really good to catch up with Heidi and fingers crossed for her big move.

Old Dance Buddies

So, here comes some big news for me and Mike!  We had left NYC and gone on this whole Asia trip because the plan was always for Mike to find a non-profit job in either Asia or Africa.  The Asia trip was just something we planned since this would have been one of the few opportunities in our life to take a trip like this.  Well we got back and Mike started his job search.  I thought maybe at the very least it would take 2-3 months to find something.  Wrong.  It took 3 weeks!!!  It’s been absolutely crazy but we are moving to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in October (for folks unfamiliar with Africa, it’s south of Kenya on the East coast of Africa).  Mike and I been to Dar way back when we traveled together before doing our study abroad program in Cape Town (this was pre-dating days).  It’s funny how as a tourist 4 days in Dar we felt was too long, but Dar as a living city is one of the safest in Africa.  It’s exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time.  I keep having anxiety nightmares since now I’m nervous about finding a job in Dar (I thought I would have had more of a break than 3 weeks!).  We don’t have all the details yet, but as we prepare for our big move, I will be posting updates!

Aug 072012
 

Coming to Chicago is all about family time with my in-laws.  I’m so grateful to have wonderful, loving, laid-back in-laws!  We’ve been spending the last couple of weeks going to the zoo, going to the lake, eating meals, and playing with the niece and nephew (5 and 6 currently).  They are the cutest little ones ever and so full of energy!  I’m always tired after playing with them and Mike and I give each other looks like “are we ready for this?”  I think we will be…one day. 😉

Love These Kiddos

One day, the ladies all went to afternoon tea at this cute little place called Infinitea. It really reminded of one of my favorite places in NY’s West Village, Tea & Sympathy.  All the teapot and tea sets have different decorations and all the decor is tea and Victorian themed.  We got some delicious scones and they had a menu with pages and pages of the different kinds of tea they had.  They even had a gluten free menu for the niece, so that was a major plus.  Definitely recommended!

Ladies who Lunch

Later that week, we went to the nephew’s T-ball game at the park.  There were a ton of teams there and the kids range from 4-5 years old.  It was really cute watching the kids hit the ball and run around the bases.  They are still getting down the fundamentals of the game so it’s really only 3 innings where everyone bats and runs and there aren’t any outs.  Great activity for the kids and I loved that the little girls were out hitting and running with the boys.

Running for First Base

Post T-Ball Madness

Mike is such a sports guy that it was cute to watch him cheer for the little kids with a lot of enthusiasm.  “Good fielding, nice hit!”  Definitely a future Little League coach on our hands. 😉  It’s been great having these 3 weeks with the family since we usually only get to stay for 1 week during holidays.

 August 7, 2012  Posted by at 12:12 am Chicago, Illinois Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  No Responses »
Aug 062012
 

Chicago pizza.  A must have when you’re visiting this town!  To be honest, I’m definitely more of a NY pizza kind of gal, but good Chicago pizza done right is out of this world.  True, you feel stuffed to the max afterwards after just one slice, but it’s delicious!  When I lived in Chicago for business school, I’d been to Gino’s East, Giordano’s, and Lou Malnati’s–considered the main Chicago pizza restaurant chains here.  Mike’s parents live about 1.5 hours north of the city, so we actually tried a local place called Rosati’s.  Conclusion?  The best I’d had in Chicago!  It definitely beats the past pizzas I’ve had.  Maybe the key was ordering sauce on top style?  Or maybe it was because we had just gotten off our flight from LA after I got into an accident at our rental car drop off?

Side story: We were dropping off our rental car at Advantage LAX and when I was unloading the trunk, an SUV came up behind me and rolled forward and pinned me in between the two bumpers.  It was probably the scariest thing that’s happened to me in a while and my legs were getting crushed while the guy in the car panicked and couldn’t figure out how to reverse.  Finally somebody with some sense got into our car to start it and drive forward to get me out.  Mike was freaking out and screaming at the guy to move his car.  Cops came, ambulance came.  I didn’t break any bones but my knees and thighs were severely bruised.   Two weeks later, I can still feel the bruises. Hopefully no lasting damage though–I did go to the urgent car center here and got X-rays and everything looked okay.  This is a time where I am thankful for my strong leg muscles!

Anyway, back to the delicious pizza!  This thing lasted us three days it was so huge.  Definitely a must eat.

Check out that deliciousness

Aug 062012
 

Mike and I are visiting his family in Chicago for 3 weeks and during our first weekend, we spent a few nights in Wicker Park/Bucktown with one of Mike’s best friends from college (his best man actually).  We don’t get to see them very often and he just happened to be in Chicago taking his medical boards.  I tried out Airbnb for the first time, which is this site where you can rent rooms/apts from people.  Kind of like vacation rental by owner but with a much better site and you can pay with your credit card directly on the site.  We had trouble finding a place through Craigslist (beware of apartment rental scams asking for payment by bank transfer!) and really wanted to find a place with a common area to hang out versus two hotel rooms (which would have been super expensive anyway).  So Airbnb is definitely a great option if you’re looking for a place for at least 4 people.  We found a great apt in the heart of Wicker Park so we could walk to great restaurants and shops.  It’s my favorite neighborhood in Chicago.

We happened to be there the weekend of Wicker Park Fest so on Saturday we just walked around the neighborhood and checked out all the street vendors.  I love street fairs!  It was insanely hot but in the evening it was really nice.  At night it got really crowded but when we walked around during the day it was relatively empty.  There were some neat “live art” exhibitions going on.

Live Art Exhibition

This one was a clown trying to get out of his bubble and the woman next to him was cleaning and sweeping the floor of her bubble.  All I kept thinking was how hot it must have been in their bubble that was sealed up!  There’s a great graffiti mural down Milwaukee Ave–I love the contrast between the bold colors and darkness of the skyline.

Beautiful Mural

Absolutely stunning.

We also went to historic Wrigley Field to catch a Cubs game.  They played the St. Louis Cardinals that day and there were so many Card fans in the stadium.  By the volume of their cheering you would have thought it was a home game for them!   We got the tickets on Stubhub and they were definitely way more expensive than the Angels game we caught in LA.  $90 versus $15!  Really the cheapest tickets we could have gotten for the Cubs game were in the $40 range but we wanted some decent seats.  Was a good time and a great game even though Cubs lost 6-9.

Go Cubbies!

Going back to Wrigleyville definitely brought back memories of going to Cubs games at Kellogg.  I think I’ve been to most of the bars in Wrigleyville–some good memories there and makes me feel old now! 😉