Category Archives: Travel

Denver – What We Did Day 2

If there was one thing I was looking forward to when visiting Denver it was the hiking. I’m not a big, big hiker, but I do love being outdoors (to an extent; I’m not Cheryl Strayed in any sense) and I love seeing nature as it is: undisturbed.

I already knew that hiking in the Rockies was something we’d probably do so I came well prepared with shoes, clothing, etc. My over-zealous self also wanted to hike a summit trail. I knew this probably wouldn’t happen as the elevation game would be 2,000 or more feet. Doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you’re starting out between 8-10K feet, it is a lot! Amber’s husband Richard picked out an easy-to-moderate trail for us to do that would be about 6 miles round trip with a little bit of an elevation gain and still amazing views, water and seeing wildlife. SOLD.

We got up around 5:30/6 that morning ready to hike the Cub Lake Trail! We packed our backpacks with quick lunches of pb&j, granola bars, pretzels and plenty of water; my camera, extra clothing (light jackets); sunscreen; bug spray; band aids; hand sanitizer! The drive out to Rocky Mountain National took about an hour and a half and aside from a quick stop to take a picture of the foothills on the way to Boulder, we made some pretty good time and started the trail around 9am. We ended up extending the hike by about a mile so we could see the mysterious “The Pool” before looping back around and down to the car. I think we started around an 8,000-feet elevation or so and gained no more than 1,000. Round trip we ended up doing between 6 and 7 miles and it took us about 3 1/2 hours.

I can’t even begin to express how amazing and beautiful it was. We saw some elk, some cool birds, ridiculous views and overall, the hike was made better just talking to Amber about any and every thing. It was truly unforgettable. I think the photos speak for themselves!

Scenic overlook en route to Estes Park/Rocky Mountain National Park -- in the foothills before Boulder!

Scenic overlook en route to Estes Park/Rocky Mountain National Park — in the foothills before Boulder!

Trail head! We ended up extending to The Pool and looping back!

Trail head! We ended up extending to The Pool and looping back!

Start of Cub Lake/The Pool trail

Start of Cub Lake/The Pool trail

Made it to Cub Lake!

Made it to Cub Lake!

Cub Lake!

Cub Lake!

#SpartansWill <3

#SpartansWill <3

Elk!

Elk!

I already know that next time I visit them, I want to extend my trip so I can get some good elevation and summit hikes in. I mean, by the time I come back for another visit, they’ll have probably scaled Pikes Peak’s summit a few times! Regardless, this was probably one of my most favorite and memorable parts of the trip. If we’d had enough time, I wanted to see the Trail Ridge Road for some sweet views, but I’ll save that for next time! I can’t thank Amber enough for making the drive up there and showing me all the fun things to do in Estes Park including seeing the Stanley Hotel (the hotel based on The Overlook from The Shining). I would absolutely recommend this to anyone with a Denver area bucket list.

Have you done any hikes in the mountains? Any you can recommend?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Denver – What We Did Day 1

If anyone of you follow along my Snapchat or Instagram, you saw that I was recently in the Mile High City for a long-ish weekend trip! I visited my friends Amber and Richard, who just moved out there and they showed me a wonderful time. The weather was perfect, there was no humidity so my hair was doing cartwheels and I was surprised at how quickly I became acclimated to the altitude. While sorting through all the photos I took, I started thinking about how I wanted to deconstruct talking about this trip. So we’ll do it in parts, and this first part is all the fun things we did in Denver — most of which were F R E E ! !

Regardless of getting to bed late on Wednesday night, we were up and at ‘em by 6 a.m. on Thursday so we could take a walk around Sloan’s Lake and get some legit breakfast. Amber had told me that the folks in Denver are “Active City Denver People” (hence the hashtag #ACDP2016 in case anyone was wondering), so this trip wasn’t about to be one where I’d sleep in. This was fine by me; I tend to be my most energetic self in the mornings. Our plan for the day was to discover the city of Denver!

Thanks to Thrillist, I found this list on 40 Free Things To Do in Denver. Some of it is really silly, but some of it was actually pretty great. We ended up walking to the light rail station near their apartment and took that into Union Station – a beautiful refurbished train station.

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I loved how they redid the space in there and while we were there, we crossed off #28 – Take a selfie in front of Union Station.

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From there we walked to the 16th Street Mall, which is a pedestrian-only street kind of like that area of Times Square. And it was even like that: a lot of chain restaurants, shops, etc. and tons of people. While you’re there, you can look at the skyscrapers and cross off #25 – Find the cash register in the sky — a building shaped like a cash register. Not a whole lot to see on the mall, but it does offer a free trolley you can ride up and down the street. We ended up taking that and went to the last stop to walk to the State Capitol building in order to cross off #4 – Stand on the 13th step of the capitol building and you’re exactly one mile above sea level.

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After taking many pictures there because it was silly and fun, we headed over to City Park where the real action was. The NFL Kickoff Event was taking place since it was the opener for the NFL season of the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos. Now, most people in most any city big with football are ridiculous football fans, but this was unlike any kind of fan base I’d ever seen. Granted this was a Superbowl rematch, but still. The crowd was huge! After a little weird series of incidents of how we got into the event, we were in and walked around for a while. There were all kinds of things you could do there: try on actual Broncos gear; pretend you were drafted and stand on stage with a team jersey of your choosing, and the big thing we did: stand in line to view and have a picture taken with the Vince Lombardi trophy. I’m not a Broncos fan at all, but I am a huge football fan in general, so seeing the Superbowl trophy was pretty sweet.

Walk-on for the Lions 2016!

Walk-on for the Lions 2016!

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After perusing the line of food trucks near the event and having a quick bite, and after clocking in over 20,000 steps we were exhausted and HOT (it was around 90+ degrees that day). So we took the bus back to their place and had some time to chill, walk their dogs, hydrate even more (PRO TIP: Drink a lot of water when visiting Denver since you’re in a higher altitude!) before getting ready for dinner at a legit farm-to-table restaurant where Amber made reservations. We also watched a bit of the game, which was kind of fun because they actually live about a 15-20 minute walk from Mile High Stadium!

Our night ended early though, because we had to be up early for our hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. Stay tuned for that post coming up next.

When traveling or on vacation, do you sleep in or are you up early to start the day?

 

Hotty Toddy Getaway

Many of you may have seen my photos on social media and picked up on the fact that I was in the south for a few days last week! I returned back to my old stomping grounds in Oxford, MS to visit one of my best friends and her husband for a much-needed-extended-long-weekend getaway.

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Allison and Max!

In case some of you do not know, my dad was a professor of engineering (ME) at Ole Miss and we had the privilege of living in the bubble that is Oxford. I say bubble because Oxford is nothing like the rest of the state of MS. It’s actually pretty liberal, has a diverse demographic on campus, a big Indian community (surprisingly) and it’s turning into this little hipster-chic city. I couldn’t believe how much it has changed over the years. I’ve been back to visit a few times since moving back up to the north, but it always blows me away when I see what changes its gone through, and this past trip was no different.

I’ve talked about my friend Allison on the blog before (both here and here) and it was so much fun to spend 5 days with both her and Max! So let’s get to the good stuff.

DISCLAIMER: It’s going to seem like all we did was eat for 5 days…but I assure you, we did a lot more other things. I just happen to chronicle the food the most…

The day I landed, they picked me up from MEM and we headed to the Indian grocery store to stock up on some spices and produce. We had already agreed earlier in the week that she and I would cook an Indian feast one day during the weekend, so we stocked up. We also did this to kill time before the pizza place we were going to eat dinner at, was open. Dinner that night was at Tribeca Alley Cafe in Sardis, MS just a little past the border into MS.

They’re known for their wood-fire pizza so that’s exactly what I ordered. I also indulged and ordered some sweet tea, because that only exists south of the Mason-Dixon.

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This pizza was out of this world. I got the Margherita but everything on their menu sounded really good. After we were stuffed from pizza, we drove the rest of the way into Oxford (The Oxpatch!) and ended the evening with some hot chocolate and a tribute to Bowie by watching Life Aquatic.

The next morning after getting ready, feeding the many animals that live on the property they share with Max’s family, Max and Allison prepared barista-quality coffee for me (complete with latte art!) from their coffee machine. After that, we chilled for a bit and then headed downtown to the legendary Oxford Square. It’s a very cute and charming area of Oxford filled with boutiques, restaurants, and the beautiful courthouse. I immediately felt like I was back home upon stepping onto the square. We had lunch downtown at South Depot Taco Shop where I ordered a burrito bowl with marinated tofu and black beans and we split some dips and chips for the table. TONS. OF. FOOD.

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After inhaling our food, we decided a walk around the Square was in order to help burn off some of those calories. One thing that’s great about the Square? It has hills! Odd, but true. Our stops included: Southside Gallery where I saw some of Allan’s work (Allan is Allison’s twin brother and an amazing artist/painter. He’s actually quite big in the south and I’m proud to own some of his original pieces!)

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We also made a pit stop at the clothing store so I could buy some Rebel gear for my sister and nephew, and also walked by the random London phone booth that resides in the Square.

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After walking around the Square, we headed back to the compound and started watching Man in the High Castle – which I am addicted to now! We watched a few episodes and then headed back out to have dinner at Ravine. You guys, I was looking forward to this meal for weeks. That is no lie. Ravine is located in the outskirts of Oxford and is contemporary southern food that is totally embracing the farm-to-table mentality. Basically: A hipster-nonsense-hotspot!

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I can’t say enough nice things about Ravine. The service was exceptional, the staff so polite and the food was some of the best I’ve had. We all got drinks (I got an old fashioned. Because obviously), shared an appetizer of homemade falafel (delicious and light!), and I ordered their butternut goat cheese ravioli with veggies. It was insanely good! They actually had another vegetarian offering (which is at market price for them) but this dish sounded better to me. Dessert was a no brainer: southern pecan pie.

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I was reunited with southern pecan pie and it was the most glorious pie ever. Because me and pie. And the south. And pecans grown in the south. And pie.

All in all – that dining experience will be a memorable one for me for a long time! I think for Allison and Max too! After we rolled ourselves to the cars and then back to their place, we watched more High Castle and I literally passed out from either a food coma, the drinks, or both. Who knows.

But I didn’t get to rest for too long because we had to be up early to beat the church rush for BBB – Big Bad Breakfast. One of the things I miss most about living in the south is having grits and biscuits for breakfast. And grits made the right way: full of milk, butter and coarse in texture. Allison and Max were gracious enough to let me try some of the grits they ordered, because I opted to get the biscuit with my meal.

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What I did order was delicious though: much-needed coffee, egg white omelet, that buttery biscuit and some sweet potato hash. All were delicious and not too heavy! I also bought some homemade strawberry jam to bring home with me because I probably ate like 1/4 cup of it with breakfast.

After breakfast, we decided we needed a legit walk and not just walking around town like we had been doing. We decided to head out to Holly Springs National Forest and hike for a bit, and hike we did!! I think we spent about 2+ hours hiking around the woods, which at times was kind of scary because we found out the land is pretty heavily inhabited by wild hogs. And you do not want to come across a wild hog. We saw some fresh wild hog poo all over the place, and evidence of where they burrowed through the leaves and ground.

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The forest, however, was beautiful. I forgot how the backwoods of MS could really be beautiful and very quiet. ….At times a little too quiet, but still nice! As the sun was setting, we decided to be smart and head on out before we got stuck in the dark with some peccaries!

After a much-needed nap, we realized it was well past dinner time and we were ready to cook our Indian feast! I made some mango pickle for the two of them (which should be ready to eat soon!) and we made: dal, channa and aloo mattar complete with mango lassis, rice and naan. While the food continued to cook, Allison and I snuck away to watch the weekly episode of Downton.

Indianfood

 

My last full day in Oxford included visiting the Ole Miss campus, which instantly felt like home. I can’t tell you the amount of times I wandered through the halls of Carrier Hall (where my dad’s office was and where he taught) and just remembering my way through it again! Or walking through the famous Grove or Circle and walking by the Lyceum. Ole Miss really is a beautiful campus.

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Me with the Lyceum!

Allison and Max both work for the university – she’s a geologist and he’s an EE who works on autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV’s) on the gulf. They both showed me their offices and some of the work they do, which always fascinates me. I always tell her she needs to come explore the UP and see all the geological splendors up here – hint hint ;)

After walking around Ole Miss we met up with a mutual friend I haven’t seen in 20 years, Emilie.

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We met the internet-famous hedgehog Olive :)

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Me. Emilie and Allison

It was like no time had passed with us, which is one of my favorite things about having friends who live far away. It never really feels like they are far away! Thanks for making time for us, Emilie! It was so, so good to see you and meet the animals. Let’s not wait another 20 years before we see each other!

After a quick sushi dinner at Toyo where we also met up with some other friends, we headed back to Allison and Max’s and I helped them make some mead from honey they harvested from their bees! We even to try some of the mead they had bottled from three years ago. They also sent me home with a bottle of honey they harvested this year, which is delicious. It’s amazing how knowledgable they are about beekeeping and all that comes with it. The mead making process was so interesting and actually quite simple — honey, water, some yeast and food for the yeast, ferment for a month, then bottle and let it age!

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The next morning we kind of lounged around, I packed up and we headed to Memphis so I could fly home.

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I know I haven’t seen Allison and Max since my wedding in 2011, but it didn’t feel like it’d been that long. I can’t thank them enough for taking time off work to drive me around, drive me to and from Memphis, treating me to some delicious meals and just welcoming me into their home. They definitely have the southern hospitality thing going and I’m so grateful that even after all these years, we’ve remained as close friends as we are. Here’s to the next adventure the three of us might have!

What fun trips are you looking forward to this year?

 

 

California in Pictures

Last weekend two incredibly close friends of ours, Sean (one of the best men at our wedding) and Courtney, got married in Santa Barbara, CA! And since my man was the best man, we flew out there to celebrate and enjoy some sunshine!

Our trip started with a flight from Detroit to LA, then picking up our rental and making the 90-mile-journey (read: at least 2-1/2-hour-drive-in-rush-hour-traffic) up to Santa Barbara. Our flight landed at 5 p.m, – worst time to try and navigate a six-lane highway in the worlds smoggiest, most disgusting city. However since we had the time, we took a slight detour, added another hour to our trip and drove up Pacific Coast Highway. And I am so glad we did!

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When we finally reached Santa Barbara it was kind of late in the night, but the bride and groom had rented out a vacation home near the beach, for the week! So the entire girls side of the wedding party (minus the brides sister/MOH) stayed there, the groom of course, REB and I, and some other friends! The house was gorgeous.

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The courtyard in the backyard where I spent most of my time. The formal dining was there in the back. There was also a heater when it got cold at night, and a huge bed/seating area for anyone who wanted to chill and sleep out there. The bride and groom actually did their “first look “photos out here by the fountain.

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Lemon tree! The backyard actually had apple, plum, lemon and fig tress. So wonderful!

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The guest cottage was up those stairs to the left, which is where REB and I slept during our stay here. It was super cozy but had a bed, bathroom and mini bar! It was also next to the chickens that lived in their own roost up and to the right. They were the cutest things ever and gave us some eggs each morning :)

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The next day, REB and I decided to meet up with his buddy Pat (the other best man at our wedding) and do some wine tasting! We also got to meet his fun girlfriend and explored the beach front/downtown area of Santa Barbara. It was a cute little city and all the wine tasting places were right next door to each other and on the same block. This makes it easy when you’re already tipsy by 1 p.m. ;)

REB and his best bud Pat Pat!

REB and his best bud Pat Pat!

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Municipal Winemakers

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Kunin Wines

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Kunin Wines

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Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara

We eventually had to get back to the house because the girls and I were taking the bride out for her bachelorette party! We had a blast! We started the night back at Munci wines for some wine tasting and enjoying a bottle or two. Then we walked to the Fish House (which had some vegetarian stuff actually!) and then took her out for dancing and debauchery. It was too much fun.

The bride with all her bridesmaids!

The bride with all her bridesmaids, minus her sister/MOH was riding in front.

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Courtney’s getting married!

We had at least a box of wine we went through that night. We are not ashamed.

We had at least a box of wine we went through that night. We are not ashamed.

The rest of the debauchery photos, I don’t have, so I can’t share them. But trust me when i say the bride had a good time.

The following day was the day of the rehearsal dinner, but we had some time in the morning, so REB and I headed into town and checked out downtown Santa Barbara. We got some lunch at a cute little Danish cafe, walked to the historic, gorgeous courthouse which has a viewing tower, and walked around a little before getting ready for the BBQ on the beach!

View from the top of the courthouse

View from the top of the courthouse

La Arcada - a cute little alleyway/street with boutiques and restaurants.

La Arcada – a cute little alleyway/street with boutiques and restaurants.

Time for the rehearsal dinner!

Time for the rehearsal dinner!

Goleta Beach

Goleta Beach

Goleta Beach Pier

Goleta Beach Pier

Saturday was the big day! While the wedding party was bustling around getting ready for the wedding, I decided to stay out of the way and walked down to Shoreline Park and then down to the beach! Have I mentioned how much I love bodies of water, especially the ocean? I seriously could have walked up and down the beach along the shore, listening to the waves, all. day. long.

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Time for the wedding!

REB. groom, and Pat Pat. BFFs since freshman year of college <3

REB. Sean and Pat-Pat. BFFs since freshman year of college <3

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The beautiful bride getting ready.

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First dance!

First dance!

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It was a busy, but incredibly fun 5 days in the golden state. I met some new people who will be lifelong friends, all while celebrating the love of two people who mean the world to us. I couldn’t be happier for them and thank them for those fun days and night in Cali and we hope we can visit them again soon! Thanks for letting us be part of your special day!

 

 

 

Windy City – Wildcats – Wine – Beach

Happy Sunday everyone!

Did everyone have a good weekend? I most definitely did. We had our friends come over on Friday night and we had a fun night of drinking wine, board games and sitting outside eating delicious foods.

I had promised to share the photos from the weekend REB and I were in Chicago for my sister’s graduation, so here it is! A week late, but the idea is still there ;) Hey, it’s been a busy week!

We started our journey last Thursday June 14 and it actually went quite smoothly. Gryff actually did really good in the car ride. I don’t think we’ve taken the dog on a long car ride before, but he slept pretty much the entire time. We made a pit stop at the Indiana border (at their welcome center) so the dog could TCB and REB and I could eat the light dinner I had packed for us :)

We got into Chicago kind of late and checked into our hotel (allowed dogs!) and went to sleep. We were exhausted! The next day, we had to get ready for my sister’s graduation. She got her bachelors 10 years ago, but decided to go back and get her masters in Engineering Product Development and Design. REB and I got dressed and headed over to Northwestern’s campus, parked the car, then met my sister, brother-in-law and my sister’s team mates (who she was graduating with!) for brunch and a pre-celebratory drink!

Words can’t express how proud I am of my sister. She has worked so hard and she’s so incredibly smart! She had a hard three years studying while working full time and tackling everything else going on in her life, and she managed graduating from school with flying colors! I’m so proud of her. She just continues to do things that make her an even bigger inspiration to me!

My sister and her teammates!

 

The proud hubby :)

After her graduation, there was a reception with open bar and appetizers, but we ate light because we were going out later in the night. REB and I stopped back at the hotel in Skokie to check on the pups and hang out for a bit before we drove to my sister’s house. From there, we went to this bar called Lush where one of her teammates had reserved an event for all of us! It was an unlimited wine bar w/ heavy appetizers! Holy crap was it so much fun!

Progression of sloppiness

There were so many great wines we got to try, a board full of cheese, fig, jelly; bowls of bread and tall breadsticks; boards of meat (we steered clear of that one ;)); they also served us a yummy shaved brussel sprout coleslaw. It was unbelievable and even though it was just heavy appetizers, we were stuffed! In all honesty though, I could eat tapas any day.

From Lush we walked to this weird little bar called Beauty Bar. It looked like an old salon-turned-bar. You walk in and if you paid enough in drinks, you got your nails done for free. They also had those old hairdryers set up every where. By the time we got to this bar, I was feeling miiiiighty good so I opted to dance around like a weirdo before we made our very fun, drunkard cab ride back to my sisters.

Thank goodness REB was not as hammered as me so he could drive us back to our hotel. I don’t remember the end of that evening, but apparently I was pretty amusing trying to put on shoes on the way out. I deny everything :) haha.

Saturday was super fun! We spent the day at the beach! My sister’s friends birthday was that day, so we went North Shore Beach near their apartment, and spent an evening on the beach barbecuing and hanging out. It was such a beautiful afternoon!

We couldn’t stay long though, since Gryff’s eyes were getting really irritated with the sand blowing :( We didn’t have any of his drops either, so we had to leave, but it was still a lot of fun! And we did have fun at my sister’s with her friends who also came out for her graduation, so it was all in all, a really good day :)

It’s always sad to leave Chicago but it was one of the most fun weekends. I know I say that every time when I leave the city, but it’s true. I’ve never had an awful time in Chicago and I don’t think I ever will. I’m so glad I was able to be there for my sister’s graduation, too! :)

Until next time, Chicago!! <3 <3

What’s your favorite city you’ve visited?

Not A Leaf Meets The Veggie Next Door

 

Hello friends!!

I had mentioned in the previous post how I spent St. Patty’s weekend in Chicago. While Saturday was fun drinking in the city – literally (oy lol), Sunday was fun too! I got to have a mini blogger meet up with Diana from Veggie Next Door!

I remember I had originally started reading her blog when I randomly saw that someone had been writing about Ann Arbor, the art fair here, Seva (my favorite vegetarian restaurant here in town) and Zingermans. It turned out to be Diana and I was instantly excited about her blog because she too is a vegetarian and has some great recipes to share. We already had a lot in common and I didn’t even know her that well at the time! We kept in touch over the past 9 months, commenting on each others blogs, tweeting, sharing restaurant reviews, recipes and emailing one another. Then finally we had an opportunity to hang out this past weekend!

As it turns out, this gorgeous girl lives in the same neighborhood as my sister! Talk about small world. It’s things like this that make me realize that Chicago isn’t so big – it only seems that way. When we found out we would be in the same neck of the woods, we decided to meet up for brunch and hang out for the afternoon. It was so much fun. Plus the weather was so nice that it just made for a really great Sunday.

My sister and I met Diana at Cafe Selmaríe, which is in Lincoln Square. It’s a little French-type bistro and I’ve been wanting to eat there since my sister and brother-in-law bought their house in the area. The problem is on Sundays there’s almost always a wait since a lot of peeps dig the whole brunch scene. Luckily this time, the wait was only about 30 minutes so it worked out great because we were able to be total chatterboxes while waiting to be seated.

Gorgeous Diana!

Cafe Selmaríe had some great options for brunch, a lot of which were vegetarian – a plus! Diana had mentioned they have a really good vegetarian chili, but sadly they weren’t serving it on this particular Sunday. Next time! They had a lot of other yummy things for us to choose, though.

The first thing we needed was something to drink. It was already getting to 80-degree weather that afternoon and three of us were parched. So we started with an Iced green tea.

It was the perfect thing on such a hot day. Oh yeah, did I mention it was March 18th? I don’t think it’s normally that hot in the city in March! As far as good goes, we all got some tasty treats. My sister got their breakfast croissant: scrambled eggs and gruyere on a croissant (she got it without ham), mixed greens salad and diced potatoes – looked so delicious! Diana ordered the wild mushroom omelet with the mixed greens salad – also looked uber delicious. I saw one thing on the menu and knew instantly I had to get it.

No…it wasn’t the corned beef hash (nast).

Egg florentine had my name all over it. I find it weird that I hate getting my eggs over easy or over medium, but poached? Love ‘em. I know it doesn’t make sense, but what did make sense is that this dish was delicious and totally hit the spot.

Diana was also the biggest sweetheart and surprised me with a little gift from her Asian adventures this past fall. She gave this little bag (that had two little bags in it!) and it was made from recycled materials.

I already plan on using them as lens bags for my camera. Thanks Diana! <3

After brunch, we walked to the Chicago Public Library branch in the area, which excited my sister since she needed to renew her card. While she was in line for that, Diana took me up to the cooking/cookbook section (WE ARE NERDS) and showed me all these great cookbooks she’s checked out before. One stood out that I plan on ordering - Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I looked through the book a the library and there were so many yummy looking recipes in there, some of which Diana had made before and recommended. She had a great idea though: let’s try our luck and see if a used book store might have the book. So that was our next stop.

Unfortunately my sister needed to head back to her place, so Diana and I continued our Lincoln Square adventure! I took her to the Ravenswood Used Books store right on N. Lincoln.


I had been there before with my sister and she reminded us about checking it out. And since Diana hadn’t been there before, it was a great idea to check it out that day. It’s a quirky little store. Literally…little!

This place is floor-to-ceiling with books. It’s so tiny and you have to maneuver your way around all the little aisles, but it’s full of so many different kinds of books – some are even super old.

Love love LOVED this sign. There were a lot of them every where in the store!

We scoped out the cookbook section (duh)…after taking a while to find it (we kept passing it lol). We ended up buying one book each. I bought 15-Minute Vegetarian Gourmet by Paulette Mitchell. There area  lot of great recipes in there I can’t wait to try and at $6, you can’t beat it! I didn’t find Vegan Brunch, but Amazon is a beautiful thing ;)

Diana resisting the urge to buy 5+ cookbooks!

Once we had bought our books and had our fill of the bookstore, we walked down to the Delicatessen Meyer/Gene’s Deli on N. Lincoln. It’s a German market, which I thought was just a butcher place since they hang meats and stuff in the front window (No joke. It’s gross!), but I was surprised to see that it was a full market with produce, world items, tea, all kinds of wine and more!

View from the second floor

 

I'm such a sucker for neon signs!

After that we walked across the street to this cute little toy store, then we walked next door to the Chopping Block. This store is really great but really expensive. The entire store is basically a store for Le Creuset (drool but spendy!) and little kitchen knick knacks. But they’re best known for offering cooking classes and knife/cutting technique classes.

Once we were done buying some kitchen goodies we had to part ways, but I am so so glad I got to finally meet her! It was such a fun day and we realized we have so much in common and our significant others have a ton in common too. I can’t wait to hang out with her again maybe later on this summer when I’m back in the city or if she comes back to A2 :)

I look crazed :P

Do you like exploring your neighborhood for new stores?
What’s the best one you’ve found?

Green Weekend

 

Hi everyone!!

Sorry I’ve been MIA all weekend. I was in Chicago visiting my sister! It was probably one of the most fun weekends. I think a lot of it had to do with the weather being so beautiful. I always hate leaving that city and leaving my sister’s place. I just love Chicago!

Anyway, I have a big post I’m going to be writing, so I’ll just make this a picture post and show you some snaps I took from my phone from St. Patty’s Day :) Enjoy!

Green river!

 

Seester and me

 

Famous for chocolate shakes. I won't go into detail on what that means.

 

Chicago neighborhood

 

Hmm…I guess I don’t have more pictures! I have more in the next post, which was spending Sunday meeting with Diana from the Veggie Next Door! Stay tuned!

I always feel so sad to leave to leave Chicago.
Is there a city near you (or not) that you love to visit and hate saying goodbye?

Paris in Pictures

Since my last Paris post was mostly about the food, I thought it might be nice to show you some of the pictures of our actual time in Paris. I’ve said it a million times since returning, but I really want to go back. I can’t wait 10 years again fore I make that happen ;) Enjoy! <3

 

Pretty pretty :)

Climbed up the Tower!

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We couldn't go all the way to the top, but this was just as cool :)

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Pyramid at the Louvre

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Art clockwise from left: Mona Lisa (as close as I could get to it :P), Venus de Milo, Winged Victory and Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss (one of my favorite scupltures of all time <3)

 

Photography wasn’t allowed in the Orsay. This wasn’t the case 10 years ago, but it is now :\ They also took out the huge clock. And you can’t get to it :( Glad I got pics the last time I was there with my sister <3

 

My favorite monument in Paris <3

Goooorgeous!

<3

 

When in Rome

The last stop in vacation was the ancient city of Rome! Our travel agent, who is also a very dear friend of mine, told us that we needed to have a train ride through Europe. I forgot how much I love to ride through Europe by train!

But one thing I haven’t ever done is ride through Tuscany. Can someone buy me a vineyard there? ;)

If you're lucky enough to find someone to be awkward with you, you know it's for real :) <3

 

We are capable of taking a good picture though :-D

A four hour train ride can seem like forever, but we finally reached Rome!

We were staying in the Piazza Fiume at the Hotel Fiume. This hotel was PIMP (for lack of better words). We had stayed in pretty quaint hotels in the other cities. And by quaint I mean really small and not very modern ;) This was the most modern hotel we stayed in, but as the last stop in our trip, we needed that extra comfort.

Only one good picture at night of the place. ...whoops

Once we dropped our bags, we decided to walk to the Spanish Steps. But before that, we grabbed some lunch at a pizzeria near our hotel. I got the Roman style pizza and REB got the Napoli style.

You might remember in the previous post that we weren’t a huge fan of the Roman style pizza. We preferred the Venetian. I know it doesn’t look it, but the minute we let our pizza cool and we cut into it, it just fell apart :\ The flavors were kind of there, but they weren’t as seasoned or flavorful as the pizzas in Venice. Kind of a shame, but that didn’t stop us from eating the entire thing ;)

A good end to lunch!

So something I didn’t know about Rome is that we actually stayed in the ancient city of Rome. Outside the city wall (which is still in tact by the way!) is the rest of the city of Rome. I assume that’s where most people live and work and drive. The ancient city is actually super tiny and we could have walked every where, but taking a cab ride there is ridiculously cheap. However, we did walk. We walked through this underground tunnel to reach the Piazza di Spagna and went to see the Spanish Steps!

From there we walked up to the Medici house and walked around their gardens. Then we walked to the Piazza di Popolo, which actually faces directly to St. Peters Basilica in the Vatican City. But before we walked through the Medici gardens, we got a good view of the ancient city.

That dome waaaay in the back is St. Peters!

After walking through the gardens and seeing the Steps, we headed south towards the Trevi Fountain. It was CROWDED when we got there. It was getting to be evening time by then, so we decided to get some dinner and then go back to the fountain at night.

Gorgeous by night :)

The fountain is absolutely beautiful in person. The details in the carving, the columns, it was just gorgeous. We did throw a coin in while we were there. I guess that means we’re going back one day ;)

The next morning we got up super early to beat the crowd at the Colosseum. It was also REB’s birthday that day! Beating the crowd is one of the best tips I can give anyone wanting to see a huge famous landmark in a huge city.

Besides, the light is so beautiful in the morning. Made the whole place glow and look golden!
We did go inside the Colosseum, and it is just magnificent in there. I really can’t describe it in words…

SO WE’LL USE PICTURES! HOORAY!

We actually did the “Caesar Shuffle” from the Colosseum to the Palatino, Roman Forum, up to the Campadoglio (the capital house), and then up to the Pantheon.

Augusta's Palace in the Palatino

 

The Roman Forum

 

From there we walked to the Pantheon, which is another fantastic monument. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a good shot of the whole thing since it was so ridiculously crowded there. But I did get a few shots of the details…

After that, it was time for one of my favorite things: time to eat!
Like I said earlier, it was REB’s birthday, so we had to have a nice feast. We knew we weren’t going to eat until much later, so we made the most of our mid-day meal.

Limoncello and Paparadelle con Funghi

He got a shot of Limoncello and got this amazing ribbon pasta with the mushrooms. We love all kinds of pasta, but he’s always wanted to try this particular kind. …So when in Rome… ;)

Me? I wanted risotto. I asked the waiter what kind of risotto they had because their menu just said “risotto” on it. He asked me what kind I wanted. He suggested mushroom and I said “Sure”. So what did they do? They made me something not even on their menu.

I don’t think I need to tell you that it was absolutely delicious. The picture speaks for itself!!

After our wonderful lunch, we had a lot of time to kill. I actually surprised REB with a ghost story tour of Rome at night, and we had a lot of hours to kill. So we hopped a cab and decided to go to the Vatican City.

St. Peter’s Basilica is quite beautiful. And I don’t mean any disrespect, but…it seemed a little over the top.  Just wasn’t our thing, I guess. They claimed to have strict rules about who they let in based on what they’re wearing (as in, dress nicely because it’s a place of worship), but we saw them letting in girls with the shortest shirts or low-cut shirts. Just seemed more like a show than anything else.

But I won’t lie, it is beautifully constructed.

Pope's window to address the people

 

This doesn't even show the whole thing, but it's at least the main part. Someone buy me a wide angle lens so I won't feel deprived next time ;)

 

So the ghost tour of Rome at night was so much fun! We also took a crypts and catacombs tour the following day, but photography wasn’t allowed on that one since we were in churches and places of respect or whatever. Anyway, before we set off to meet our group at San Andreas Basilica, we had to get some gelato ;)

There was this great gelato shop by our hotel called Flor. And it was SO good. It was also open until the wee hours of the morning. The nicest people worked there so we made sure to stop in there at least once or twice a day :)

So! We met our group at the church and found out our tour guide, who went to both Michigan State and Michigan (woot!). So we learned some cool stories based on the areas we were walking around.

The first stop was in the Piazza Campo dei Fiori to see the statue of Giordano Bruno.

The story goes that the pope killed him because this guy was a scientist like Galileo and his ideas were “dangerous”.  Anyway, they burned him at the stake while he was alive. When Rome became its own democratic country, they built this statue facing the Vatican to remind the church of its past crimes and why people should have democracy. We just liked how you know, they built this statue as an apology to his family. 200 years later.

Then we walked to the next site and on our way we passed by this old church that had skulls all over it.

This church was used to bury the people who died from the plague. Except, these were people who didn’t have families or have money for a burial. So the monks would just scout the streets for dead bodies and if someone clearly didn’t have a family, they would take the person and give them a proper burial and put them in the catacombs below the church. This is very similar to the church we saw the following day on our catacombs and crypts tour. We went to the Capuchin Crypt, which has six “rooms” made entirely out of the bones of monks.

From there, we walked to another little piazza and our tour guide asked us, “So which one of these buildings has a window where you think a potion maker would live?” So we all looked around and looked up and then we saw this window:

The top window there was the home of a woman who was a potion maker. The story goes she used to make an odorless, tasteless poison (I always think if Iocaine powder from the Princess Bride haha), disguise it as holy water and sell it to women who were in bad marriages where their husbands beat them or whatever. However one woman had a change of heart about killing her husband so she turned this potion maker in to the police and she was killed. The story goes if you’re a man with wickedness in your heart, you can see her ghost wandering the piazza at sunrise.

The last part of our brought us here, the Castle of Saint Angelo. It’s an absolutely beautiful building, with a dark story behind it… ;)

This was home to the Barberini Family. The head the of the family was a bad dude, so the rest of the family killed him so they wouldn’t be caught up in beatings, lashings, etc. The pope didn’t like this so he had the family killed. If you remember from the story of Giordano Bruno, the pope used to be the mayor of the city, not just a religious figure. So, because he ruled the city, he had the mother beheaded and the other children killed for turning against this rich man Barberini.
However, the youngest in the family, a boy, was about 12 years old and couldn’t be tried as an adult. So his punishment was to be castrated so that he couldn’t carry on the Barberini name or inherit the estate. If you’ve been to Rome before, make sure you stop by the Piazza Barberini, named for the family. What is it with Romans building monuments in the name of people wrongfully killed as a form of apology? I guess better late than never!
Anyway, the story goes is at sunrise you can hear the screams of the mother as she worries for her son’s punishment, and you can see her ghost holding her head wandering the bridge looking for her son. That is, you’ll only see her if you are a man with a wicked heart ;)

This tour and the one we took the next day were so amazing and interesting. It was a great way to see the city and hear some of the stories that people still talk about today!

I know we had the most fun in Paris, but Rome definitely come in second. It’s such a beautiful, ancient city with gorgeous architecture and culture.

whoosh!

Our entire trip was just amazing.  It didn’t last nearly long enough, even though we were happy to be home (does that even make sense? haha). We’ve taken away so many memories and so many photos. We’re already planning our next trip to Europe! There is so much more to see!

I’ll be posting one more with just some pictures from Paris since I mainly talked about the food in that post ;)
However, I hope you all enjoyed the series of posts related to our honeymoon! Ciao lovelies! <3

One Day in Venice

After we left the delightful city of Paris (and I promise I’ll include photos of the actual city, soon!) we jetted off to Venice. Literally.

We landed into Marco Polo around 9 p.m., and had to take a bus to the island of Venice. Then from there, we had to take a water bus to the stop by our hotel.

We were pretty loopy since it wasn’t the longest flight, but it felt like a long day. The airport is actually located on the main land and if you’re going to the island of Venice, you need to take water buses around once there. You can take a water taxi but we found out those are €90! Much too much money if you ask me. It would be a private ride, but that’s just too much. So, we took a water bus…which was an adventure figuring out where they line up and which one we needed to take. Since we got there so late, a lot of the buses we thought we had to take weren’t running anymore and no one seemed polite enough to help us out :\

We were staying in Canareggio area aka the Jewish Ghetto. It’s one of the older parts of the city and it’s also in the eye of the city. In case you never noticed, the island of Venice is shaped like a fish (now that I know this, this is all I see LOL) and we were staying near the eye. It’s also the area closest to the terminal that takes you to the main land.

After we got to the San Marcuola stop, we had to figure out how to get to the hotel. When nightfall comes, there are no lights in Venice. What we learned the next day from our guide, is that it’s up to the owners of the building if they want to have a lamp post or light outside their building. Apparently a lot of people opt out of this, making it very hard to read street signs and/or maps ;) We finally made it to our hotel and realized we were starving! Once again we hadn’t eaten for a few hours and needed some sustenance, no matter the hour. So we walked down our little street and found the first restaurant that was still open and decided to sit in. Lucky for us, we found a restaurant with two hilarious waiters who kept things fun and telling jokes.

REB and I were really excited to eat, too. We knew we were going to have pizza, which is a big deal. Neither one of us is Catholic, but we always give up something during Lent just to see if we can give up something we love to eat or drink or whatever. And one of our favorite things to eat is pizza. So, we gave up pizza. And then we were in full-fledged health mode before the wedding, so we made a deal that until we got to Italy, we wouldn’t eat any pizza.

So in case you missed that, we hadn’t had pizza for 6 months before we got to Italy.

We. Were. STOKED.

Vegetarian pizza

So yes, I got the vegetarian pizza. REB got the cheese pizza. And they were both so freaking delicious. Now that we’ve been to Rome as well, I can honestly say that I prefer Venetian pizza over Roman or Napoli. Roman pizza is far too thin and all the toppings just sort of slide off, which is unfortunate. Napoli pizza is slightly thicker, but again, the sauce is so watery that the toppings are kind of swimming in it and they just fall off. But Venetian-style pizza was a thin crust, that was firm, topped well, seasoned well and baked to perfection.

The next day, REB had gotten me a real treat. As an early birthday present to me, he arranged for us to have a private walking photography tour with a professional, around the city of Venice! It was unbelievable! The tour was super early that day; from 8-10:30 a.m. Normally I hate getting up early on vacation, but I was actually very excited. Most people know that the best times to take photos is really early in the morning or around sunset when the light is best.

Venetian sunrise <3

We were almost late meeting her at San Marco’s Square, but we made it just in time. We also realized that no one else had signed up for the tour so it was just us and her. So perfect.

I will say this here and now: Venice in the early hours is so beautiful. It’s so quiet, peaceful and not crowded. I’ll be honest, we weren’t the biggest fans of the city once everyone came to the island. It seemed like an amusement park to us. No one lives on the island and at 10:30 or so, it just becomes this ridiculous, crowded mess of people. Every two feet is a souvenir shop, people trying to sell you something, waiting in lines to get into stores, see the bridge, whatever. It just wasn’t our cup of tea. And then promptly at 8 p.m., everyone leaves the island and it becomes totally dead. But in those early hours when the city is starting to wake up, it’s absolutely gorgeous.

Eve, our photographer tour guide, was an amazing guide. She showed us these cute little streets, alleys, waterways, and houses that we wouldn’t have found on our own.

She also taught both of us how to take pictures at different angles, which I realized I don’t do nearly enough! She also showed us her favorite spots in the city where she likes to take photographs.

Like this bridge solely to look at the water for the reflection:

Or this water street for the bridge, colors and perspective:

REB held onto my shirt so I wouldn't fall into the water. Luckily there was a wall to help lean my camera

There’s no denying the entire city is filled with charm, beauty and old-world style.

So quiet in the morning

We learned some neat little facts about the city from Eve as well. Like how an area we were in was the red light district called “Casi no” or as you and I know it…casino. It literally translates to “bad house” or whatever. It basically meant that gambling, prostitution and other saucy things were taking place in certain buildings. And the way you knew if a house was bad was if there were wooden shutters on it. That was usually a good indication that prostitutes might be hanging out up there calling down to the boatmen.

casi no

Other things she taught was about the wells that were situated in areas around the city. The wells were the way people got water back to their house.

Or if you were rich enough, you had a courtyard in your home and a well of your own. Only a few of these houses still exist in the city today.

I love the light in this photo. So warm :)

So the tour lasted 2 1/2 hours but it felt like it flew on by! She showed us some fantastic parts of the city and even suggested some things for us to do on our own for the rest of the day. Anyway, we couldn’t navigate the narrow streets of Venice the way she did, but we did finally find the Rialto bridge and then….we saw this….:

I’ve never seen such a beautiful view! I had heard stories of the Grand Canal being pretty cool, but when you seen it in person it’s just as busy as the photo shows. But again, it’s only like this once the city wakes up. I kind of wish I could have seen it in the wee hours of the morning. But either way, it was just magnificent!

Walking around the city really worked up our hunger. We didn’t eat breakfast since we had to get to the Square so early for the tour. The best solution? Pasta!

I got the pomodoro and basil, and REB got the pesto. Both were pretty delicious

I don’t know how it happened but this place was actually a little past our hotel. We somehow got from the Rialto Bridge back to Canareggio. Lucky for us, we were in an area that Eve actually suggested for us to see that isn’t a big attraction. She told us that one of the oldest bridges in Venice was in this district. And we found it!

So searching around the city of Venice works up an appetite for an afternoon snack. What better snack in Italy than gelato!

I got the pistachio on the left there and REB got the mint chocolate chip.

Our journey continued and we decided to visit the three islands by Venice: Murano (where they do the hand blown glass), Burano (Italian lace!) and Torcello (…I’m actually not sure what it’s known for, but it’s old and pretty haha).

En route to Burano

So while we were in Burano, we actually didn’t stand around to see the lace demo. We wanted to take advantage of the 30 minutes we had on the island, so we walked around.

We may or may not have had gelato within a 3 hour span.

Coffee flavored nomz!

….but we did ;)

Torcello was a beautiful island. Really old, small and had this beautiful church on it. I think that might be what the island is known for, but I honestly can’t remember…

I looove those beams!

 

Pretty shadows <3

We also saw something I had never seen before in person: a pomegranate tree!

Hard not to pick one but I think the homeowners would have been mad...

So when we got back to Venice, it was about 6 or 7 p.m. and we were hungry again. Walking can do that to a person, I guess ;) Being a vegetarian in Italy isn’t so bad. You get to eat a lot of pasta, pizza, cheese and ice cream. However, I’m sure that can get pretty old and unhealthy. We totally indulged while we were there though! We walked along the Grand Canal to find some good restaurants and just decided to sit at one of them. REB got pizza and I had pasta (again).

Not as good as the one we had the night we got there :"

 

Arrabiata

When we were done with dinner, we had remembered something Eve had told us in the morning. The area where we were staying was apparently the Venetian nightlife hotspot. So that was exciting for us. We were ready to have a drink and just wind down before we had to get up early for our train ride to Rome. So we walked past our hotel and into the street she told us about.

The nightlife of Venice? It’s really just four bars lined up next to each other and they’re open until 10 p.m. while the rest of the city closes down at 8 p.m. as mentioned earlier. So anyway, we found this cute little bar and had a drink.

Bellini and white wine

So yeah…nightlife? Here’s the nightlife.

There it is. So the city might not be open super late and no one might live on the actual island itself, but we did have a nice time. I’m glad we were only there a day. I don’t know what we would have done if we were there for more than 2 days. Maybe go to Florence for a day (next time!) or something.

We did have a lovely time in Venice, but we were ready to keep heading south and spend the last part of our honeymoon in historic Rome. But the beauty we saw in Venice will remain with us forever. That’s for certain <3