The Week That Was: July 25, 2014

Dinner al fresco at Castlemartyr Resort | Castlemartyr, County Cork, Ireland
Dinner al fresco at Castlemartyr Resort
Castlemartyr, County Cork, Ireland

We’re coming off two glorious weather days here in Chicago, with abundant sunshine and temps barely in the 70s. Goodbye, AC. Perfect for dining al fresco, which made me think of one of my favorite al fresco dinners on our vacation in Ireland a few years ago. We had our own private patio and it was one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever been. I’d like to snap my fingers and be back there right about now.

It’s been a long week. KP had a work trip, Nora got more (!) new teeth and construction began on our basement. Hooray! The guys are doing a good job and I hope next week at this time I’m reporting that I’m typing my post from our new basement. Granted, it will be empty since we haven’t scheduled our sofa delivery yet, but at least I’ll (hopefully) be able to sit on the new carpet.

We’ve got a food-focused weekend coming up… which really bodes well with my goal of getting back on track with my eating (and drinking, or not drinking). On Saturday, we’re having a picnic potluck in the park (say that five times fast) for Nora and all her fellow one-year-olds, provided the weather cooperates, and on Sunday, we’re having brunch with a friend. Whatever you’re up to this weekend, enjoy!

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Next month we’re hitting the East Coast via road trip, and we’ve talked about a stop at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland on our way home. What else is there to visit in Cleveland? Apparently the house from A Christmas Story, which I learned from my friends at Dabble in Travel. A must-see!

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Go figure… Chicago is not one of the five happiest cities in America, but I bet you’ll be surprised at the state that has them all.

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Some good food for thought if you’re lucky enough to be moving overseas.

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We’ve been hitting up the farmer’s market nearly weekly, and we almost always grab a zucchini or two; Nora loves it. Next week I’ll have to pick up a few more so I can make this yummy-sounding zucchini butter.

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I want to scream (or throw it) every time my phone tells me it cannot take a picture because I’m out of storage. As if 6,000 photos on my phone is excessive?! Time to revisit photo storage options.

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I’ve been looking at home interiors a lot lately, to inspire our basement redux. While I won’t do it in our current home, I’m intrigued by the idea of painting interior doors black.

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What the hell happened to Strawberry Shortcake, and how do I find an original for Nora?

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That’s all for this week. Have a lovely weekend!

Cocktails and Dinner in St. Louis, Missouri

St. Louis has become a frequent date night destination for KP and me — despite being a good five hours from Chicago! Whenever we’re at my parents’ nearby, we have the luxury of free baby-sitting services, so we take advantage.

Last month when we were in the area for Father’s Day, KP and I had a little one-night staycation in St. Louis. We stayed at The Chase Park Plaza and had some yummy drinks and food.

Cocktails at Taste

Taste St. Louis
Taste St. Louis

Taste was a good choice for pre-dinner cocktails because it was within walking distance of our hotel, and it just so happened to be a gorgeous evening. Luckily there was a table available on the patio so that we could enjoy the weather — and drinks, of course.

Taste boasts a really impressive cocktail list, and as soon as I saw the words “Surfboard Fizz,” I knew what I was drinking. A cocktail with a name like that is the epitome of summertime. It’s made with your choice of vodka or gin (I chose vodka) and includes watermelon, orgeat, honey, lemon, basil and soda (if you’re like me you have no clue what “orgeat” is, so I’ll tell you — it’s a sweet syrup made from almonds, sugar and rose water). Surfboard Fizz is a serious sittin’-on-the-patio-sippin’ cocktail for summertime. I cut myself off at two, but could’ve easily kept going. KP went with one of his faves, a mojito, which I’m told was also quite tasty.

Surfboard Fizz and Mojito at Taste
Surfboard Fizz and Mojito at Taste

I loved the patio at Taste. There are just enough trees to provide a little shade but still let in the setting sun. And though the street that Taste sits on isn’t terribly busy, there was just enough good people-watching to be had.

Dinner at Brasserie by Niche

I knew Taste and Brasserie were on the same street, but I didn’t realize they were next door neighbors where one restaurant nearly runs into the next, and I didn’t realize that they’re sister restaurants, both part of Niche Food Group. So we didn’t have a far walk for dinner.

Brasserie by Niche
Brasserie by Niche

We weren’t able to get a table outside at Brasserie, which ended up being just fine. The inside of Brasserie is adorable. I’d call it farmhouse chic, which is fitting for a French brasserie, after all.

The menu features the usual suspects — steak frites, onion soup, croque madame and my favorite, profiteroles. KP and I shared a dozen oysters to start, and he had the brasserie burger and I had bistro steak frites. For whatever reason, it took an unusually long time between the oysters and our main dishes. I typically like a bit of a lag, but it was excessive. Our server obviously recognized it, too, because he brought us more bread and fed us more (complimentary) wine. He was very sweet about it and was clearly trying, though, so we didn’t give him any grief. Besides, it was one of our rare baby-free dinners — we had all the time in the world!

Our food finally arrived and it was good; I have no idea what they put on the frites but they were incredible. I was so full, yet I kept shoving them in, a la Chris Farley as a Gap girl. And, much like David Spade, KP commented that I should stop eating them. Hmpf.

Like I said, profiteroles are my fave but there was no way I could fit another morsel in my tummy, particularly after eating that vat of frites. However, our lovely server insisted on bringing us a complimentary dessert due to all the waiting for our main courses. How could we say no? We were certain it was going to be profiteroles. Nope. He treated us to the floating island dessert, and I’m so glad he did; I’d have never chosen that myself, but we all but licked the dish clean.  The floating island consists of vanilla crème anglaise topped with poached meringue, and garnished with toasted almonds and caramel sauce. It’s rich, it’s light, it’s fluffy, it’s salty, it’s sweet. It was the perfect end to our meal.

The Week That Was: July 18, 2014

"Don't Let Yesterday Use Up Too Much Of Today." | Will Rogers

I saw this on Kathie Lee and Hoda’s Facebook page earlier this week. It needs to be my mantra, especially at present. I have a serious case of the post-vacation blues. And then there’s other stuff that has me feeling very stressed and bla.

Our basement is still in shambles and I’m slowly accepting the fact that it will be for some time. I wake up in the middle of the night, ridden with anxiety about how the insurance company is going to likely try to screw us over — or, if it’s raining (which it’s been doing nearly daily lately), about whether or not our basement is flooding again.

All kinds of warning lights went on in our car so that will likely be another expense. We’ll find out today.

And I find myself feeling more hate than love for Chicago these days, which makes me sad because I do love this city. I learned that a woman with her baby in a stroller was robbed at gunpoint just down the block from us last Friday afternoon. The robber pointed his semi-automatic weapon at the baby. On Wednesday, two armed men robbed passengers on the Orange Line train. Enough already.

Is it any wonder I’ve been drinking copious amounts of wine this week (and shopping online for a bubble in which to raise Nora)?

Sorry for being Debbie Downer.

Have a lovely weekend.

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“I’m kind of meh on New York.” Me, too.

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I’m a big believer in Airborne before getting on a plane. However, I also stuff everything I want access to while in-flight in the seat-back pocket. Not anymore!

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I haven’t been eating well this week. I blame stress. And the thing is, I know how eating crap makes me feel. It truly is a vicious cycle.

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Speaking of eating crappy… As if Paula Deen’s burger with Krispy Kreme doughnut “buns” wasn’t enough, we can now indulge in a funnel cake burger.

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If you aren’t traveling this summer, why not check out some travel movies, instead? I can’t believe Summer Rental didn’t make the list, though…

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This piece on sharing food reminds me of the time my nephew–seven at the time–fully freaked out at the thought of giving my husband — then boyfriend — a lick of his ice-cream cone. His logic: we’re not family so we don’t have the same germs. (Ice-cream sharing has commenced now that we’re married.)

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Admittedly, I felt differently about kids on planes before I had one of my own. But I strongly believe that parents feeling guilty and needing to give out goodie bags to fellow passengers as a way of proactively apologizing for potentially bad behavior is ridiculous.

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That wraps it up. Have a good weekend!

The Week that Was: July 11, 2014

I know I just got back from vacation, but I feel like I need another one. That feeling is totally warranted, though. While we were away, spending our days sunning by the pool with a cold beverage tucked into our float chairs, Chicago was hit with an awful thunderstorm. The torrential downpour was so fast and furious that many homes flooded, including ours — wamp, wamp.

Evidence that our basement wasn't the only casualty
Evidence that our basement wasn’t the only casualty

After hearing about it, we spent the first day in denial, I guess. We didn’t shrug it off, but we decided that we’d deal with it when we got home. We called the major restoration companies and the earliest anyone could see us was Sunday, when we’d be home anyway. But the second day we started to freak out. I guess reality set in, as much as it could over 400 miles away from home. A friend who had keys to our place went in, surveyed the damage, took some pics and sent them our way. It looked disgusting, to say the least. So we spent that morning Googling and calling other smaller restoration companies in hopes someone could get to us sooner. At the end of the day, no one could get to our place until Saturday, which meant that KP would only have to cut vacation short by one day to get home and meet the cleanup crew.

Nora and I went straight from vacation to Grammie and Grandpa’s to wait out the storm, as it were. We had no hot water at home and it was just a mess. So we gave it a few days before returning. I guess you could say we took the easy way out! It was a little bizarre returning to a formerly fully-furnished basement, stripped down to its concrete floors, no furniture, and 2′ of drywall missing. We’re fine, though. Cleanup is done, we’re all dried out and now comes the fun (ha!) part — the rebuild. The silver lining — we’ll have our basement exactly how we want it.

Coming home to something like this really makes vacation seem like it was years ago, not just last week. It was a great trip. We stayed in an amazing home which was beyond suited for our group of 20+. Our days were spent relaxing at the pool, eating and drinking. I think I only left the house to go to the grocery store once or twice, to play putt-putt once and to get frozen custard once. Good times.

I think it’s clear what my foreseeable future entails… Hope your July 4th holiday was nice and dry!

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Vacationing with — or staying with — family can drive anyone a little crazy. But if you stop and think about it for a minute, I’ll bet the sweet moments outweigh the crazy ones.

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My most memorable little known place to visit is The Falkland Arms. Despite being located in the touristy Cotswolds, it was eerily quiet when we visited a few years back.

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KP and I have discussed someday moving to London many times. So I better bookmark this excellent guide for if/when it ever happens.

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If only more pilots were so thoughtful

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Are these the things I’ll eventually tell Nora about “the good old days?”

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Happy weekend!