30 April 2014

Baby's First Zipcar

You guys, I have something slightly stupid to admit. Back in the fall, I insisted on signing up for a Zipcar membership because in my mind, it was the perfect solution to my non-car having self. Shelling out the initial monetary funds ($60) to open my membership was no big deal, because after cranking the numbers, it was SUCH  a deal. But a car-sharing program only works if you actually share said cars, right? After a month or two of not using my account, I removed my Zipcard from my wallet, placed it in my "card box" and wiped my hands clean of the free-wheeling independent car-sharing woman I had envisioned myself to be.

Here I am, thinking I look so cool behind the wheel.
In truth, I didn't use my membership because I have terrible car anxiety. I have never owned a car, always shared one with members of my family. I have been in minor car accidents (let's be real, no one is perfect), and yes, once I even totaled the family car. Accidents, along with my other weirdnesses have left me a less than confident driver, and the idea of borrowing a car that is unfamiliar freaks me out. Besides, why drive when there's plenty of public transit to get me around, Uber is my new best friend, and cars are killing the planet?? As a result of all of my Woody Allen-esque neurosis, I would up shelling out money for a membership to a car-sharing program I would never use.

This is the massive car I would one day total. Sorry siblings, I'm the worst.
Fast forward to yesterday, when I needed to pick up two generously gifted free (gently loved) AC units from Wicker Park, sans car. A little voice told me today is the day. I coordinated a pickup time with the lovely Kelsey, confirmed that a body could help with the heavy lifting (thanks Nick!), and after watching the super funny informative Zipcar training videos online, I booked a two-hour slot on my Zipcar mobile app. Yeah, I had an app on my phone I also wasn't using. Guilty as charged.

Extra sorry for putting shared car keys in my mouth at age 17.
Apologies again to my siblings.
Picking up the car was insanely easy. It was weird how instantly I went from a car-less nervous wreck to a confident independent mobile lady moving air conditioning units around the city like it was no big deal. And driving an unfamiliar car was made a little easier with Zipcar emailing me tips/tricks/and hints about the vehicle in question to help ease my anxiety. In total, I spent $23 on a two hour slot, for what amounted to saving big-time on the price of purchasing a cooling system for our adorable but less-than-modern apartment. Oh, and there was even time to stop at Target... it's official, I am a joyriding fiend.


In short, if you are without a car and living in a city, I highly recommend trying a car-sharing program. It was such a good solution for a lil lady like me who only needs access to a car once in a blue moon (Ikea, I see you girl).

Please note: This post is composed of my opinions and is in no way affiliated with Zipcar. I just really enjoyed my experience using their service and want to share it with the other Woody Allen's (behind the wheel) of the world.

29 April 2014

Free-dom

Last week I activated my "freegan" palette by participating in so many free experiences that I feel like my head is still spinning. Seriously, this is what I felt like after my week of not spending money on amazing activities

I'm the free king of the world! via Twisted Red Lady
My social calendar is a bit intense but not without good cause. Last week was totally one of those weeks, where I just couldn't say no to all of the wonderful things this city has to offer. I'm feeling a little bit like my favorite Miley Cyrus song, I can't stop. 

Thomas Hart Benton, Cotton Pickers,  Oil on Canvas, 1945
Thursday night I visited the Art Institute for a lecture on the Thomas Hart Benton painting that some of my research helped to acquire, titled Cotton Pickers. The lecture examined issues of race and class identity of physical laborers in the historically wrought cotton industry of the South. While I knew the basics of working conditions of laborers (many of which were descendants of former slavers), I didn't even consider my own take on the cotton industry, or how my opinion of "cotton" is heavily influenced by a 1970's ad campaign that redefined views of cotton and the cotton industry. 

That's right, the Fabric of Our Lives advertising campaign was deliberately released to change the way in which we as a culture associate with cotton the product. No longer are we associating cotton with backbreaking slave labor, share cropping, and post-Civil War economies, but rather we think of cotton as a commodity, something that is wholesome, feels good, is soft to the touch. Yeah, mind blown.

Haunting, right? via The Whistler Chicago
After the talk, Ben and I attended an informal reception with, you guessed it, free finger foods and free wine. It was such a wonderful surprise pick-me-up after an engaging lecture, on a free night at a museum I love. Following snacks, we hightailed it to the Whistler in Logan Square for Crimson Glow, a feminist inspired dance party, where I was surprised to discover that there would be an artist performing a piece as part of the event. Such joy, such rapture, completely free. Also, Rose brought a gaggle of ladies with her, and I might have coaxed myself into buying a $6 drink (or two...) Gotta support the local business, after all. 

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One of the MFA Students built a robot that breathed, drank, and pissed.
Who needs a drinking buddy anymore?
Friday, Ben and I had even more hanging out (please don't move to VA!!!). We visited Western Exhibitions and Paris London Hong Kong for two exhibition openings, and a single free beer. When in Rome, right? And following those openings, we hopped on the train eastbound for the SAIC MFA exhibition opening at the beautiful Sullivan Galleries. The show was gigantic, high energy, exciting, and free :).

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And as if the fun were to stop there, I was on such a roll, that when Andrew suggested we go to the free Owls show at Punch House in Pilsen, I couldn't not go. We grabbed a last-minute southbound Uber, and found ourselves packed into a tiny basement bar sipping punch, free beer, listening to Free bird Anyone Can Have a Good Time, bobbing our heads along, 100% satisfied. 

I think in total, I spent $30 bucks on the entirety of all of these activities (the price of four drinks). I attended a lecture, I danced my butt off, I took in a performance art piece, I attended three art openings, and I saw a band that I've been listening to for nearly a decade play a live show. Why pay when you simply don't have to? 

28 April 2014

Homemade Chocolate Glazed Doughnuts

Per my 45 Instagram likes, I figured I might as well post the amalgamation of recipes I tested to make what I thought was one of the best donuts ever. Not only were the doughnuts "free" in that I had all of the ingredients I needed at home, but they were a nice pick-me-up on an early Sunday morning. I'm sorry Longman & Eagle, but it looks like there's a new sheriff in town, a sheriff who makes her own donuts instead of spending $4 for one of yours.

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Following the doughnut-craze of 2K13, I've noticed plenty of blogs jumping on the BIY (bake-it-yourself) bandwagon, and have been slowly bookmarking various doughnut recipes for the testing. My favorite non-fried doughnut is of the chocolate cakey persuasion, having learned early in my tenure at the Art Institute, that it is acceptable to bring in Munchkins if they consist only of glazed and chocolate cake glazed donuts. Jellies be damned, and powdered, GTFO.

The donuts I made were basic enough to whip up pre-coffee, and they even contain a splash of coffee so I was sipping as I was mixing. So many of the recipes I skimmed through required a double boiler for melting chocolate chips and for making the glaze, but I managed without. The only specialty item required is a donut pan, which my sister gave me for my birthday and I am officially obsessed with.

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Chocolate Doughnuts with Vanilla Glaze
Yields 6 doughnuts
Adapted from Joy the Baker and Alton Brown

Ingredients
For the doughnuts
1 cup bread flour 
½ cup light brown sugar 
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 
½ teaspoon baking soda 
¼ teaspoon salt 
½ cup buttermilk 
¼ cup strong brewed black coffee, cooled 
1 egg, lightly beaten 
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cooled 
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar 
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
1/3 cup melted semisweet chocolate chips, cooled

For the glaze
1/8 cup whole milk or cream
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup confectioner's sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. 
  2. Place flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a mixing bowl and whisk together. Set aside. 
  3. Pour buttermilk coffee, eggs, butter, vinegar, and vanilla into another mixing bowl and whisk together. 
  4. Pour the flour mixture into the buttermilk mixture and stir until fully mixed. 
  5. Fold in melted chocolate until just combined. 
  6. Lightly grease a couple baked doughnut pans and pour batter into a piping bag or gallon sized re-closeable bag and pipe batter into the doughnut molds, filling 3/4 of the way up. 
  7. Bake the doughnuts for 18 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of a doughnut. 
  8. Remove from molds and transfer doughnuts onto a cooling rack and allow doughnuts to cool completely. 
  9. Combine milk and vanilla in a medium saucepan and heat over low heat until warm. 
  10. Sift confectioners' sugar into milk mixture. Whisk slowly, until well combined.
  11. Remove the glaze from the heat and set over a bowl of warm water. Dip doughnuts into the glaze, 1 at a time, and set on a draining rack placed in a half sheet pan for 5 minutes before serving.

25 April 2014

Top Six Picks: March 2014

ONE
The Bar at Lula Cafe
Because I only have two months left to eat double orders of quesadilla's and drink cocktails at this beautiful marble bar with my dear friend Ben. This truly is our date spot. And what better location to celebrate our recent successes, than coming here for our favorite snacks, gossiping over cocktails and the din of music from the big beautiful speakers, speculating about our future exploits, and ordering bubbly to toast just to us. Even when Ben is settled in Charlottesville, I will come here and fondly remember the conversations had, the toasts made, and celebrate our friendship over my own quesadilla.
Lula Cafe's bar seating via the Chicago Tribune

TWO 
Quinoa
In the last month or so, quinoa has become the anchor of my diet. Why is it so delicious, so filling, and so healthy? Seems too good to be true. I like to cook it in homemade vegetable broth with a cube of essence of mushroom (as I shall call it). It's pretty much all I want to eat these days.
Mmmm quinoa via the New York Times

THREE
Green Street Smoked Meats
Um, we now have Austin-style BBQ in Chicago. The set up is so totally no muss/no fuss, and the food is honestly amazing. Would I eat here everyday? Nay. But it's nice to know there's a place not too far from work that has a tub full of iced beer, BBQ brisket, and some of the best potato salad I have ever had.
I love the little lights in the rafters, makes it feel cozier  via Zagat


FOUR
Lupita Nyong'o's Oscar Acceptance Speech 
Tell me you didn't want to simultaneously cry and smile at this beautiful woman's powerful words and the graceful way in which she carries herself. "When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you're from, your dreams are valid." I mean, it doesn't get any better than that? Does it?


FIVE
The Shamrock Shuffle / Running an 8K
And to piggyback on Lupita's good-vibes about dreams being valid, I crossed off one of my 2K14 goals, participating in the Shamrock Shuffle. Full disclosure: I did not know it was an 8K. I thought it was a 5K. But then when I learned the distinction after signing up, I said to myself, I can jog five miles. I can and I will. And I did! I wound up jogging for a majority of the time (woohoo, this being the girl who couldn't jog two blocks this summer), coming in at 1:01:53, which was a faster pace than my 5K in the fall. I also stopped to use the loo halfway through the race, so we could potentially shave off a minute from that number. Andrew was very supportive the entire time, cheering me on, carrying my jacket, and making sure I was hydrated the entire time. Sprinting through the finish line was one of the best accomplishments of my LIFE. 
I didn't realize this race was that big of a deal... via It's a Local Thing

SIX
The Martini
I finally found my drink, and I am obsessed. After a long day at work, or even while cleaning the apartment after our party, a martini just puts me exactly in the place I want to be.
I feel you, Lucile via StarCrush

This Weekend

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Nick and I blowing out our collective birthday candles at last week's party we threw
Photograph c/o Andrew
With "birthday month" coming to a close, I am looking forward to a weekend with just the right balance of running around and lazing about. This week has been one of those exhausting ones, you know what I'm talking about? Moving furniture, feminist dance parties with performance art, a lecture at the Art Institute, BBQ from Green Street, having said BBQ flossed from my teeth at the dentist, all of it powered by quinoa and kale.  Anyways, what I'm trying to say is my hours being a domestic goddess last weekend sort of failed me because the laundry I did with such care is currently jumbled in a pile on my couch. God grant me the strength to put away this laundry. 

Besides finishing my laundry, here's what I'll be getting into this weekend:

- A series of art openings in the 845 W. Washington building (Western Exhibitions, Document, Paris London Hong Kong), potentially followed by a visit to the Sullivan Galleries for the SAIC MFA show
- Making a big pot of spring asparagus soup with a loaf of crusty bread
- Finishing the travel photos, then moving on the the friends/family/misc. photos at Herb and Mary's
- Grabbing Italian beefs with Andrew's parents
- Putting that godforsaken laundry away
- Reading the Goldfinch
- Potentially attending the free Owls show in Pilsen then venturing off for pot stickers

24 April 2014

Free Things

Between booking a spontaneous trip to NYC, paying the dentist to polish and clean my (now) pearly whites, and making rent, it's hard not to occasionally feel a little cash poor. And feeling cash poor makes me feel the following things: completely pathetic/bummed out which is then made worse by major #FOMO. Why must everything in the city cost money? Why do I want to do all of the things that cost money? What about my lifestyle needs to be tailored and trimmed to make my pocketbook smile?

And then it hit me. Well it hits me from time to time, but on a cloudy cash poor day like today, it hit me all over again. There are plenty of free things to do in the city,  I mean plenty. I am mainly writing this for myself as a reference for future-cash-poor Sandy to reference, but if you have anything to add or if you want to not spend money with me, then be my guest. My free-loading, free-lovin', free-wheeling guest. Also, kudos to Rose for making a list very similar to mine. The more free inspiration, the better.

Go outside
Walking and jogging are free. Sun is free. The smell and sound of rainfall is free. As are grass, and shade, and the sound of birds chirping. Pull out your picnic blanket, grab a library book (also free), and sit your tush outside for as long as you can. Time will pass pleasantly, and you will free the grace of the sun making you whole again. Additionally, the Chicago Park District Pools officially open in June.
What I wouldn't give to relive last Sunday afternoon again.
Just going for a casual walk around Logan Square. Dog sitting is also free.

DIYs
Sandy, you have a GoogleDoc full of DIYs ripe for the picking, as well as a craft cabinet laden with supplies. 1 + 2 = 3, amirite? Roll up your sleeves, dust off your crafting tools, and make something with what you already have. Also, pickle every vegetable ever. And make syrups. And bake bread.

Rhubarb syrup with produce from today's farmers market!
Syrups are one part sugar, one part water. Infuse with whatever spring thing delights you.
Basil? Sure. Mint. Why not? Rhubarb, always.

Go to the bar, but don't buy a drink
This is a plan I am going to try tonight. There is a FREE feminist dance party at the Whistler, with gender-neutral bathrooms, and ALL of the ladies/feminists I want to align myself with. It's the perfect place to show off my unshorn pits as well as my dance moves... and what if I went without buying a drink. I'll get back to you on how this one goes. But free dance partay!

Negroni slushie was basically invented for me and my day off.
Ah to master the art of ordering just one drink.

Volunteer
Volunteering is free and it makes the world a better place. Last fall I volunteered for the Chicago Humanities fest, and in exchange for a few hours of my time, I was invited to attend two lectures, one magic show for adults, and an interview with Rick Bayless. I'm hoping to get involved with a community garden, or I will just take over Andrew's deck garden for the greater good of the community. 

What is art?
I was a volunteer coordinator for ArtWork6 last year. Volunteering at openings is so much fun.
Free art, and sometimes free snacks/free wine.

Free Summah Activities
Chicago, you are the best for this. I just need to not go overboard on the snacks situation for most of these. Pro tip: snacks add up. So do beer and drinks. I think learning to be satisfied with none just one drink is going to be a new skill I implement this summah. New mantra, water is free. And better for you.
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It's hard not to spend time in Millennium Park and feel removed from a routine.

Free Chicago Things
Chicago is full of free things, year round. Sometimes I just need to remind myself that all of these wonderful places are free, then pinch myself for not spending more time at these places.
Lincoln Park Zoo is free. I know, zoos are super problematic, but I go for the history and architecture. Also... the penguins.
The Art Institute is free Thursday nights. 
The Museum of Contemporary Art is free Tuesday nights.
The Chicago Cultural Center is free and open daily.
First Fridays art openings in the West Loop.
Second Fridays art openings in Pilsen.
The parks and beaches are free.

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23 April 2014

Squid Ink Pasta with a Garlic Lemon Butter Sauce

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After having squid ink pasta at Rolf and Daughters in Nashville, I'm sort of addicted. And luckily, Herb and Mary gifted me some fresh handmade squid ink for my birthday. Maybe year 26 is the year of navy blue pasta? Or maybe it's the year of the squid? Either way, I opted to cook this dish up the day after they gave me the noodles, because they have a short shelf life, and I have the tendency to wait to utilize gifts. Case in point: I just finished a Starbuck's gift card I was given a year and a half ago, I have a box of See's candy I have been nursing for over a year (I should probably dispose of these chocolates...), and countless bottles of wine from our housewarming in November. Somebody, please make me use my presents in a timely manner.

Regardless of my gift usage policy, I decided we needed something fresh and delicious to commemorate the arrival of spring and the end of a truly wonderful weekend. We picked up some shrimp and a little bit of cheese, other than that, everything I needed to whip this up was in my apartment. Kudos to me and Nick!

Ingredients

Squid Ink Pasta
1 lb of shrimp (peeled, tails off)
1 lemon, juiced
1 shallot, minced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsps of butter
1/3 cup white wine / cooking wine
Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, grated
Fresh cracked pepper

Instructions
  1. In a big stock pot, fill with water, salt, and bring to boil.
  2. While the water is boiling, get your prep work done. Mince the shallot and set aside. Mince the garlic, and set aside. Juice the lemon, set aside.
  3. Melt butter in a saute pan, add the shallot and cook till soft. Add garlic, cooking for a minute or two until soft. Stir in white wine and lemon juice. Let reduce until alcohol cooks off and you're left with a lemon, garlic, butter sauce. Feel free to add more butter, or if you cooked your shrimp / defrosted your shrimp, stir in some of your "shrimp water." Turn off the stove, and set your sauce aside until just before serving.
  4. Let pasta cook for recommended time, check to make sure it's al dente.
  5. Just before the pasta is done, add shrimp to the garlic butter sauce, and heat until the shrimp are warmed. Be careful not to overcook, or your shrimp will shrink and begin to curl in, becoming rubbery.
  6. Serve noodles into bowls, topping with shrimp and lemon butter sauce. Sprinkle with cheese and freshly cracked pepper. 
  7. Eat immediately, serve with a chilled white wine.

Buon appetito! 

22 April 2014

An Ode to Spring

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We pulled out my new picnic blanket, ate bagel sandwiches on the boulevard, sipped cool iced coffee and coconut water, you napped as I read. We played bocce ball, felt the sun on our backs, the grass on our feet, and in unison with open arms we welcomed our dear friend spring. I read while you played, trying tricks on your new skateboard, me always watching you out of the corner of my eye. Then after we walked home our palms too sweaty to hold hands, stopping only for Italian ice. I spooned mine in while you befriended the dogs and neighborhood cyclists. Coconut and mango. At home I cleaned the kitchen and went about my weekly Sunday routine of whipping up a dinner fit for kings, juggling laundry and other odd tasks, but this time the windows were wide open, and a breeze kept me company. A leisurely martini, a bowl full of artichoke leaves, us watching Mad Men on the couch, as our skin stuck to the leather, a pain we hadn't known we'd actually missed until we pried ourselves free and tumbled lazily into bed.

Box Count: Fifteen

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Last week we crossed a major threshold, 1,000 photographs archived! And to celebrate, while poring over photographs of Montana, Mexico, Kashmir, Iowa, Wisconsin, and New York, we happily poured ourselves a glass of bubbly to commemorate such a happy milestone in the project.

Cheers to 1000 photos being archived!

I'm keeping my eyes peeled for images of pool halls for Andrew, while simultaneously making mental notes of repeated motifs. I'm leaning heavily toward photographs depicting food, kitchens, and market places... I feel like a gourmet photography show could be such a fun thing for us to do. I'm even daydreaming of organizing a potluck or enlisting food trucks at the opening, well this is just one place my mind has wandered.

And food art shows are so in vogue right now! We'd be piggybacking on Art and Appetite: American Painting, Culture, and Cuisine (2013), Peter Fischli David Weiss: Questions, the Sausage Photographs, and a Quiet Afternoon (2011), the forthcoming Check Please at Western Exhibitions. Then there are folks like Ken Fandell with his images of bananas and Cheetos, and Deb Sokolow whose show in the fall humorously told the tale of how some meat is made in Norway. Culturally, it's hard to ignore the rise in popularity of pop-up dinners, and foodie culture in Chicago, or maybe I'm just biased from my new obsession with the Chicago-based podcast Chewing the Fat. It just feels like a food show is begging to happen! Plus everyone loves potlucks and snacks, right? And we are living in one of the food epicenters of the world... like an  ice cream maker, my ideas are churning, and the product I'm sure will be a treat.

18 April 2014

This Weekend


Bon weekend! This week dragged by in its own way, it feels like Monday night's Passover seder was two weeks ago. Between unpacking, party prep, and menu planning, it feels like my personal life has taken on a job-like manner that I don't dislike. Ask me to make the grocer list, and I'll organize it by the section the food item is located in the store. Ask me to plan an itinerary,  I'll send you the GoogleDoc spreadsheet shortly. 

This weekend is going to be busy, but labor of love busy.

- Back to interning with Herb and Mary! I'm really looking forward to continuing their travel photographs. Such adventures they've been on!
- Tonight and tomorrow, Nick and I will be whipping up hors d'oeurvres, cleaning the apartment, and getting ready for our birthday shindig. The menu is pretty much Mad Men era inspired, asparagus-stuffed deviled eggs, strawberry and pea shoot crostini, crab/avocado/mango salad in wanton bowls, roasted garlic guacamole, lemony feta dip, macaroons, bacon wrapped dates, and of course... a birthday cake! Washed down with Pimm's Cup! I am excited to showcase my new egg platter, seriously. 1960's wifey status.
- Sunday, Andrew and I are toying with the idea of attending the Logan Square adult Easter Egg hunt. I might need to stay in bed with The Goldfinch though...

16 April 2014

Birthday Weekend in the 'Shville

Y'all, I am back from my wonderful birthday weekend in Nashville ('Shville as we have begun to lovingly call it), and I am still scrolling through the photos on my phone with a big dumb grin on my face about how dare-I-say-perfect the entire trip was. We got plenty of rest in Lexie and Kathryn's wood-paneled bungalow, soaked in time on Lexie's beautiful bright yellow couch, ate one too many delicious foods, all whilst drinking in how carefree and lovely it was to be in one anothers company. We drove back to Chicago Sunday evening and it wasn't long before I was swept away in the whirl of planning a perfect Passover meal and catching up on Mad Men. The next few days will surely involve unpacking, salad eating, blog-catching-up-ing, and planning the Rook Nook's forthcoming birthday bash.

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This is Lexie's beautiful woody bedroom. She has such a knack for sleek simplicity, that even she can make wood paneling work. Waking up to this affirmation every morning was such a pleasure, I sort of want to get it tattooed to my eyelids, lest I ever forget.

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I tried to take Andrew to the Pancake Pantry for my birthday breakfast, but he took one look at the line and gave me a definitive No. I didn't sweat it, because we wound up walking a mile along the Vanderbilt campus to try Hattie B's for Nashville hot chicken. Hot chicken is basically brined and fried chicken that is then tossed in a mild-to-spicy sauce with a drier heat than that of hot wings. It's definitely different than Parson's, though you might have been fooled by the photo! We ate ours with potato salad (my new favorite thing - must have potato salad), and mac 'n cheese. He washed his down with Jackalope beer, I opted for sweet tea, but pinch me because we ate my first meal as a 26-year-old out on a patio with a new friend named Sedric. Amen.

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Just a handsome dude and some purty flowering trees, nothing to see here.

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After hot chicken we hit up some record stores. Our first stop was Third Man Records, which naturally I knew nothing about, but Andrew and I both loved. Plenty of weird kitsch, a really small but tightly selected record selection, and plenty of stuff to touch and look at. I wound up getting a live-session recording by King Tuff on vinyl, because it reminded me of how Andrew left our first date to go see King Tuff without me! No hard feelings, I forgave him.

In addition to Third Man, we visited Grimey's and Grimey's Too where more dusty record browsing occurred before heading to Jackalope for beer-tasting, followed by drinks and rock-star pommes frites at Holland House.

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For dinner, Andrew, Lexie, Kathryn, and I went to Rolf and Daughters. Many a drinks were had while we waited on the patio playing "Would You Rather," we all wore Kate Miss necklaces, Lexie and I gushed over running into our lady-crush, author Emma Straub, and I ate delicious squid ink pasta. Also, we ate a bread-and-butter course that was a hunk of bread, a slather of butter, and a little pile of salt. It sounds dumb, but it was basically the best ever. And it was the perfect fuel for a night filled with karaoke, cider, beer, and Miley Cyrus at Santa's Pub.

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Here's Lexie doing a solo-stint of Taylor Swift's You Belong With Me, because Nashville. Duh. We did the bulk of our belting at Santa's, which is a few trailers pushed together with cheap beer, bad microphones, and Christmas decor year round. You can smoke indoors, you can be as rowdy as you like, but please, no beer or cussin' on the stage. Also, let it be known that the first time Lexie ever did karaoke was at my birthday party last year! Dreams do come true. Two years in a row means this is officially a tradition, girl.

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Photo cred Andrew
We were all tuckered out post-karaoke, but after a good night's sleep we headed over to Barista Parlor for what might have been the hippest cup of cold brew I have ever had. The space I presume was an old garage, gutted and turned into a hipster coffee metropolis. The coffee bar was in the center of the large open space, made of what I'm assuming was re-purposed wood (oh me and my crunchy yuppie assumptions).

UntitledConfession, I know nothing about coffee. I am just as satisfied with a cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee as I am with Intelligentsia (not sorry), so places like this really intimidate me. I stuck with a cold brew, because I understand what it is (basic) and there aren't rules or accouterments with it. It's just a cup of joe that sits in the fridge, brewing. No muss, no fuss. It was refreshing and delicious, and served in a mason jar. The real winner for me was the sausage biscuit served with marmalade. The sausage was made/sold next door at PRB, which I kept wanting to call PBR. Normal, ya know. But oh my goodness was this biscuit divine. Buttery and dense, with sweet tangy marmalade, and warm greasy local sausage. The perfect semi-hungover snack before hitting up another record store and Mas Tacos Por Favor.

Mas Tacos Por Favor
Sigh. Mas Tacos Por Favor, what is there to say? First off, this place has a line, a line well worth waiting in. It was the Nashville equivalent to our beloved Big Star, but the menu seems to change more, and there aren't any lethal margaritas to worry about. Rather, there are daily agua frescas, and as far as booze goes, the joint is BYOB. Andrew went to a liquor store a block away to grab himself a beer, I stuck to pineapple and cilantro agua fresca, because damn. Just damn. We waited in line, ordered off of the chalkboard, then basked in the 80 degree heat while our food was prepared. I had my FIRST breakfast taco, as well as the carne asada taco. The tacos were wonderfully seasoned, and a little bit bigger than their Big Star cousins, I could only eat one and a half before pushing my plate away! The ingredients were fresh and flavorful, everything was to my liking. If you are in 'Shville and don't mind a short wait, I highly suggest coming here. 

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Just casually waiting for our food at Mas Tacos, looking fly against the gorgeous hot pink wall. 

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All the tacos and sunshine left me completely tuckered. We wound up heading to Lexie's to take a cat nap, before heading to Las Paletas for not one, but two popsicles in the park. Above I'm chomping on paleta number dos, a refreshing little cantaloupe popsicle.

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Saturday night, we ate BBQ at Edley's but I wound up ordering a salad (blasphemy, I know) because I was completely full to the brim of heavy deliciousness. And afterwards... Lexie and I stayed in. Catching up a bit, before settling into couches facing one another with books and magazines. Reading across from each other in one another's company was so pleasant and calming. I forget what it's like to luxuriate in the company of a close friend, even if you aren't talking. It was a complete Dear Sugar moment.

And then, after a good night's sleep, we enjoyed one last meal together at Bagel Face. I had an everything bagel with lox, capers, tomatoes, red onion, and schmear, because why not bagel-binge before Passover? It was the most wonderful end to a perfect trip, and the right fuel for an eight-hour-drive back to the Windy City.

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Naturally, we had to make a pit stop at Dinosaur World.

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11 April 2014

It's My Birthday!

And for my birthday weekend, we have the beginning of the end (sob) of Mad Men. What better way to begin the next year of my life than with a sexy rendition of Zou Bisou Bisou, amirite? I'm spending the weekend in Nashville with Lexie and Andrew. We'll be dining well, pawing through records at Grimey's and Third Man, hitting up the Frist, and eating all of the BBQ we can handle. Hope you all have a wonderful weekend! XO

09 April 2014

Finding Vivian Maier


Do you ever see a film that is so well-done, so interesting, and so pertinent to things you care about, that halfway through the movie you get anxious about the impending end? No? Well I do. And occasionally, one of these gems comes along that makes the hair on my neck stand on end within the first two minutes. Finding Vivian Maier was one of those movies, which comes along once in a blue moon. A film in which my metaphorical stars align and everything I seem to be interested in is addressed, seamlessly, in one fell swoop. From archiving, to museum practice, black and white photography, and tiny villages in France - this movie has it all.

via Nova Planet
For one, a bulk of the documentary takes place in and around Chicago, which adds a level of familiarity and personal interest to a tale of intrigue and mystery - placing me and my home right in the middle of the story. The story is so great, it makes you wonder how something like this could happen, and what treasures are still left to be uncovered. 

John Maloof with his loot via Avoision
A short synopsis:  in 2007 John Maloof, the director and filmmaker, uncovered a box of black and white photographs with negatives at an auction, purchasing the entire lot for a mere $300. He looked through some of the photos, and had a visceral reaction to the images knowing they were "good," that there was something about them that felt important. This knee-jerk feeling led him to methodically seek out and collect every box he could find of work by this same seemingly unknown photographer, to try to figure out who she was, what she did, and why her work was still undiscovered. 

This project reminds me so much of the Warhol time capsule project... it's eerily uncanny, yet unbelievably exciting! 

Maloof's journey led him to contact museums which initially turned him away (gasp!). He persevered, finding out that Maier was an amateur photographer in secret, while maintaining a job as a full-time nanny to support her work. He traveled around the country interviewing her former employers and their progeny, the children she worked for. Maloof even traveled to a small village in France where Maier's mother was from, reconnecting some of the subjects in her work to real place and faces. Maloof held Maier's camera in his hands, then held her mother's camera in his hands. Connecting a tradition and a family interest, into a line that makes sense in the world where Maier maintained perfect anonymity.

Maier's cameras via We Think Photo
The film was emotional and exciting, uncovering the mystery in a wonderful manner of show and tell. Giving a name to the work that so desperately needed to be brought to light. As more and more negatives are developed and enlarged, and more museums and galleries begin to support the work in the manner of hosting exhibitions - Maier's work is finally being seen, after years of gathering dust and begging to be discovered. There's something so wonderful and yet so melancholy about this story - one pregnant with possibility and also tinged with loneliness in its purest form. 

Artist self portrait via Chicago Now
I highly suggest seeing this film if it comes to your town, or seeking it out if you have a chance. I walked out of the theater inspired by my own reflection in glass, by the way the light fell on the world around me, by my own archival project with photographer, Herb Nolan, and by all of the works of art that have yet to be discovered. It's incredible how good this movie made me feel and how inspired it left me. 

04 April 2014

Box Count: Ten

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We have reached a point in this project where we have a real stride in our step! With ten boxes completed, and only a few small piles of musical photographs left to file and archive, we will be a third of the way done with the this leg of the process. 

It's pretty incredible to see the breadth of the collection, and even this early in the process, my brain is starting to pull images that might work together for an exhibition. Repeated themes and patterns are starting to make themselves apparent in the most unlikely of ways. Images of food and dining are working their way into photographs of musicians performing and hanging out. From Tom Waits smoking cigarettes in a diner to Muddy Waters drinking from a pewter mug in his lobster wall-papered kitchen. Additionally, fashion is an ever present force in the collection. Afros, frenetic patterns, men in heels, aviator sunglasses and turtlenecks, if you can imagine it, they probably wore it. Not to mention images of long-lost hotels and boarded up night clubs, all nothing more than a memory, a moment in time. 

Once we wipe our hands of the musical photographs, we will move on to the "travel" category, which I am really quite eager for. India, Mexico, and Montana are all parts of a whole. It will be interesting to see the commonalities and themes that make themselves known as we review these works in a unified way.

Some other news, Herb discovered one of his photographs is up for auction at Kodner Galleries Inc. We're not quite sure how his work ended up in Florida, but he's in good company alongside Abe Morell, Ansel Adams, and Toulouse Lautrec (to name just a few). If you're interested in buying some of his work not from Kodner Galleries, feel free to reach out to me or Herb directly!

This Weekend

Cheers to the freakin' weekend via Rebloggy
You guys, it's the weekend. Well, it's almost the weekend. And I spilled coffee into my keyboard because it's just been one of those weeks, ya know? It's like coffee, get in my mouth, not in my keyboard. Anyways, this week has been weird and rainy and cold, and I feel a little bit like I haven't gotten enough sleep and that the errands and paperwork that have been piling up are all I spend my time doing. Which is why this weekend is going to be leisurely as hell.

- Tonight Ben and I are going to the UIC School of Architecture for what I have interpreted to be a magazine launch party. Ben and I don't really know what it is that we are attending, I'm holding out for wine, snacks, and fashionable people.
- Tomorrow, the saga of the photography archival project continues!
- Then lunch with Trevor and his fiance Rosalyn whom I've yet to meet! Perks: catching up, new friends and old friends, and dining in Logan Square!
- Will you judge me if I stay in tomorrow night? Wearing this, and only this.
- Sunday is a BIG day. As in we are going to see Finding Vivian Maier at the Landmark. I feel like I heard about this documentary years ago when they first publicized the discovery of her treasure trove of photographs and negatives. And now it's playing in Chicago, where much of the story takes place. Can I get an amen?
- We will be dining at Frances' Deli, and I'm already debating if I will order the BLT or the open faced meatloaf sandwich. A milkshake will also be in order.
- After the movie, we are hitting up Lincoln Park Zoo and then headed to ASSSCAT for dinner comedy.

Pretty packed with fun things. Now if only the weather would cooperate...

03 April 2014

Some Dandruff on Your Shoulder by Jens Lekman


It's rainy, it's cold, and all I can bring myself to do is slowly sip my quickly cooling coffee and listen to Jens Lekman's I Know What Love Isn't on repeat. It's captures every single melancholy feeling so simply and clearly with beautiful harmonies, simple lyrics, and plenty of new stories. Some Dandruff on Your Shoulder is one of my favorite songs by Jens, and this live version is haunting, plain, and sad. Exactly what a gal needs on day like this.

01 April 2014

Has Spring Sprung?

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Yesterday something enchanting happened. It was in the low-60's. It was sunny. The breeze that blew didn't hurt my face, and at lunch, I basked in the warm rays. I donned my Ray Bans, I peeled off my coat, and I walked west along the river for what felt like hours. It was unbelievable how rejuvenating the warmth of the sun felt, even in the small span of an hour.  My cheeks were tingling, my freshly shorn head felt the warm breeze upon it no longer feeling over-exposed by the winter chill. And then in the evening, after work, a light drizzle descended upon the city, releasing that fresh o-zone smell we forgot we knew we loved, and then we loved it again for the first time in months. Fresh drizzle, fresh rain, freshness at the core. I forgot what all of these sensations felt like, but yesterday was so special and rare that I basked in it at every moment I could. We even stopped at the newly re-opened Tastee Freeze to share a twisted cone, because it was finally warm enough to eat soft serve. Pure magic. I have a feeling it's going to be a lovely spring.
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