A Day at the Farm

Boggy Creek Farm

Today we took a trip to Boggy Creek Farm where they were hosting the Green Corn Project’s “Grow Locally, Cook Globally” annual fall festival. The Green Corn Project is a volunteer-run organization that helps Central Texans grow their own organic vegetables by installing gardens for elderly, low-income and disabled community members, as well as elementary schools, community centers and shelters in underserved areas of Austin.

Today’s festival featured some of our favorite Austin eateries, including Olamaie and Odd Duck, plus some new must-try spots like Vox Table and Delicious. Olamaie served up blue corn cornbread topped with creamed collards — yum! And Vox Table had me with their chickpea fritters topped with pickled pumpkin, which I was told takes days to pickle. My libation of choice was a honeysuckle lemonade which went down way too easily.

Nora, of course, was partial to Dolce Neve’s gelato. She was told she had to finish her slice from Bola Pizza first. Such a rough life this girl leads; you have to eat your pizza before you get gelato.

Ice-cream eatin'

After she got her fill of pizza and gelato, she wanted to see the animals. I think she had pigs and cows in mind, since I was really talking up our visit to the farm, but luckily they had some chickens.

Chickens

It was a good day. A little hot for almost Halloween, but the sun was shining so I can’t complain. Our bellies were full and satisfied and we got to help a good cause, to boot!

Bike at Boggy Creek Farm

 

First-timers at Austin City Limits Festival

ACL Fest

KP and I went to the second weekend of the Austin City Limits — or ACL — Festival this past weekend. I absolutely hate crowds, so ordinarily I’d run as far and fast in the opposite direction as I could, but ACL feels like a rite of passage if I’m going to call myself an Austinite. And I love music, and Mumford and Sons was in the line-up and both KP and I have wanted to see them for some time. Plus, this type of thing used to be the scene for the cool girl hidden deep inside of me. So I bought us one-day passes before they sold out.

My young, hip niece and nephew went the weekend before us — it spans two weekends — so luckily we had their pointers to lead us in the right direction. We knew where to park (and how far we’d have to walk from said parking) and to set up cashless payment on the app and all that good stuff. We were ready.

We could not have had more perfect weather for our day at the festival. The sun was shining, the skies were blue and it wasn’t too hot (ah, “fall” in Texas…). It wasn’t even terribly crowded when we arrived early afternoon. Before we got into the festival gates, though, we had to pay a quick visit to the ticket help desk… because we are old and don’t even know how to put on music festival wristbands without ruining them. Seriously.

ACL Fest

Like I said, it wasn’t too crowded when we got there and even the line for one of the many bars — our first stop, naturally — was non-existent. Food lines were fast, too, and you could choose from just about every type of food imaginable. I opted for nachos, my personal vice.

While Mumford and Sons was the draw for us, there were some other solo artsists and bands I was interested in seeing. Pete Yorn has been a favorite of mine for a long time and he did not disappoint.

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats were good fun. They have such a soulful sound; it’s impossible to not want to clap your feet or tap your toes when you listen to them — especially live. And, fun fact: they’re from Hermann, Missouri.

Willie Nelson was, sadly, disappointing. The best part of his set for me was when Matthew McConaughey introduced him. By no means am I a huge Willie Nelson fan, but I felt obligated to listen; he’s a legend! He’s also 83 years old. It was difficult to hear him, so we bailed. Those kimchi fries were calling my name!

The show stealers for me were HAIM. I had been listening to them a bit before ACL so I was excited to see them, and they did not disappoint. If you’re not familiar with them, they’re these three badass sisters and they have a fun pop/rock sound to them. KP says they’re like a throwback to the 80s, which is kind of accurate. I like them because I think their sound is unique. And again, they are just badass! I would not at all be upset if my guitar-loving daughter went in that direction…

By time Mumford and Sons took the stage, I felt as if I had spent the afternoon smoking countless bowls of weed. I know it’s Austin and we like to keep it weird, and I know there’s always an abundance of pot at these types of festivals, but wow. I was blown away — almost literally. It was so prevalent, so strong. Just too much. Is that why so many people had bandanas covering their noses and mouths? So, we watched a good chunk of Mumford but left before they were finished. They were good, but we were tired, and did I mention, old?

Good times were had by all, for sure. I’m already thinking about ACL 2017, but maybe I’ll be one of the folks wearing the makeshift medical mask next time!

Millennium Park: An Anatomy in Photographs

Millennium Park | Chicago, Illlinois

Millennium Park is one of my favorite places in Chicago. If you walk away from Michigan Avenue and find the fields of wildflowers, it really does feel like you’ve escaped the city — especially on gray days when you can’t see the tops of the skyscrapers.

When we were in Chicago a few months ago, I had a morning to myself while KP worked and I made it a point to walk through the park (conveniently, it was on my way to lunch at The Gage).

Millennium Park: An Anatomy in Photographs

I stumbled upon this great art exhibit in the park — Millennium Park: An Anatomy in Photographs. It celebrates the 10th anniversary of the park with over 50 images before, during and after construction (it ends in October). A free art exhibit in the park? Yes, thank you.

Millennium Park: An Anatomy in Photographs

One image in particular drew me in — this one by Kenneth Tanaka of a little boy splashing in Crown Fountain on a hot summer day. I just love it! Without the skyline or anything quintessential Chicago pictured, it’s still just so Chicago to me.

IMG_2303

Stumbling upon this exhibit was just the cherry on top of my visit to Millennium Park this summer.

“You Are My Sunshine” Birthday Party

Nora Turns Two!

Nora turns two!

I’ll make the cliché statement right up front: I can’t believe Nora is two. You hear people say things like this all the time, and I remember when I was a kid, we’d see distant relatives once every few years and they’d act startled that I’d grown since the last time they saw me. “You were only this big,” they’d say, positioning their hand mid-thigh or wherever, indicating how tall I was the last time they saw me. As a kid, I found it so annoying. But it’s true. Time goes by so fast. Seems like I was just rocking my little newborn to sleep after fumbling through a feeding session, then I blinked and she was climbing up the ladder (by herself!) to her new swing set.

We had a small birthday party with family to celebrate Nora’s birthday. I landed on “You Are My Sunshine” for the theme, after a brief detour down the cowgirl theme path (we’re Texans now, after all). “You Are My Sunshine” is one of the two songs we sing to Nora at bedtime every night, and I’ve sang it to her for as long as I can remember. And when she sings it now — particularly when she stretches to reach the really high notes — it’s the best. Also, it’s an easy theme! Anything yellow = sunshine-themed.

“You Are My Sunshine” Birthday Party Décor

I thought it would be really easy to pull together the décor for Nora’s sunshine birthday party, but finding an invitation that I liked proved to be a bit of a hunt. There are a lot out there, but I couldn’t find any that were my taste (read: not cheesy looking). I found this adorable design from inBloom Studio in their Etsy shop.

You Are My Sunshine invitation

I kept the decorations simple, placing framed photos of Nora, a framed party invitation and fresh flowers on our entry table. I also bought one of those chalkboards from Michael’s to create a board of Nora facts. I thought it was a great idea that I could repeat for every birthday (or use for other parties and holidays). Nice idea, except for the fact that the chalkboard I bought isn’t technically a real chalkboard, I guess, and the chalk markers that I used won’t wash off. Guess Nora can hang onto that for posterity… The one thing that had me kicking myself was my brilliant idea to make sunshine photos of Nora from her second year, which I clipped onto the wreath above our entry table. I can think of many other useful ways to spend my time rather than cutting out twelve little sunshines.

You Are My Sunshine birthday party decor

Luckily, “You Are My Sunshine” must be a popular theme at the moment, because everywhere I go I see all kinds of canvas artwork — and they’re inexpensive. I picked up a couple at TJ Maxx and put one on our mantle along with a big framed photo of Nora from last fall. I also got wooden T – W – O letters from Target and painted them yellow. Voilà!

You Are My Sunshine birthday party decor

Much to Nora’s chagrin, I made her another party hat this year. And it was as well-received this year as it was last year. By that, I mean she only agreed to wear it for a few photo opps before demanding it be removed. The hot glue gun scar I’m now sporting on my left wrist wasn’t worth it!

Party hat

“You Are My Sunshine” Birthday Party Menu

Since Nora’s party was an afternoon soirée and not at lunchtime, I decided to just serve snacks. Originally I thought about doing all yellow foods, but that menu got a little odd… so I nixed the idea. Instead, the spread included: chips/salsa/guacamole, mac and cheese bites, meatballs, hummus and pita chips, lemon Jelly Belly beans and chocolate-covered Oreos (with a yellow drizzle!). The signature drink — because what two-year old’s birthday party doesn’t have a signature drink — was this delicious sunshine punch. I channeled the baker in me to whip up a lemon sunshine cake, which didn’t come out half bad!

You Are My Sunshine birthday cake

I have no doubt that our little sunshine felt the love on her second birthday. And I have no doubt that I really will have a scar from that hot glue gun mishap. Guess that’s what I’ll hang onto for posterity.

Chicago Travel & Adventure Show

Despite a few warm-ups here and there (read: 40-degree temps), it’s still been relatively cold and gray here in Chicago. And that can lead to the dreaded feeling of cabin fever, which is exacerbated when you have a toddler. It’s bad enough that I want to climb the walls some days, but I know Nora feels the same! So we have to get creative and find things to do to get us out of the house during these cold winter months.

This past weekend we decided to trek out to Rosemont to check out the Chicago Travel and Adventure Show. I saw a billboard for the show on our way home from O’Hare a few weeks back, and I read a bit about it online. I wanted to go, but didn’t think it was something that would hold Nora’s interest for too long. Then I read Kirsten’s post about it over on Kids Are a Trip and changed my mind. Though Nora’s too little for some of the attractions (no camel rides yet, I’m afraid), there were enough things to hold her interest for a bit — and to get us out of the house for the day!

I think Nora’s favorite part of the show (aside from the Elmo balloon the folks from SeaWorld gave her) was watching the Hawaiian dancers on the Global Beats stage. They were so talented and cute! I was bummed that we weren’t there long enough to see the Irish dancers, which I love to watch, and I think Nora would’ve gotten a kick out of, too.

Global Beats Stage
Dancing to tunes from “Lilo and Stitch”

A team from Minnesota was also at the show with their Alaskan sled dogs, and Nora got to pet one gentle old soul (who was heading into retirement). I think she enjoyed that a bit more than seeing the animals from SeaWorld, particularly as the frog who was there kept trying to escape. Every time it happened, her little legs clenched around me!

SeaWorld animals

There were quite a few exhibitors at the Chicago Travel and Adventure Show, and KP and I perused some of the booths looking for inspiration for our anniversary trip later this year. I think I have my sights set on Hawaii…

We only spent and hour or so at the show (toddlers have their limits), but it was definitely an outing that the whole family enjoyed. We’ll have to plan a return visit when Nora’s a little older and can go for a camel ride!

Macy’s Flower Show: The Secret Garden

Spring Arrives in Chicago at Macy’s Flower Show

Thursday was a cold, gray, rainy day. So what better time to seek out spring indoors, at Macy’s Flower Show.

Macy's Flower Show: The Secret Garden

This was my first year going to the Flower Show. I’ve always wanted to go, but simply never got around to actually doing it. I took Nora, and it was a nice little mommy/baby experience! Plus, because the weather has been so miserable, it was refreshing to get a taste of spring, even if it was indoors.

Macy's Flower Show: The Secret Garden

The Flower Show’s theme is The Secret Garden, and there are gorgeous displays representing England, a Celtic Glen, a poet’s garden and so on.

Macy's Flower Show: The Secret Garden

There are so many beautiful flowers in every color of the rainbow — lots of vibrant, bright colors. And they smell lovely, just as you might expect a secret garden to smell. Allergy sufferers, beware!

Macy's Flower Show: The Secret Garden

The show takes up a corner of the 9th floor at Macy’s on State Street, and it took us about 15 or 20 minutes or so to walk through and see all of the displays. There’s a guided tour available, too, as well as various floral and cooking demos and arts performances throughout the show.

Just outside of the Flower Show is The Secret Garden Cafe, which has pastries and drinks as well as floral and garden-themed items, children’s books and small toys.

The Secret Garden Cafe

Good to Know:

  • Sunday, March 23 – Sunday, April 6, during Macy’s store hours
  • Free
  • Guided tour available with a flower expert
  • Appropriate for all ages and plenty of room for strollers
  • Daily events covering floral, food and performance
  • Valet parking available on Wabash Ave; rates start at $14 for up to two hours

$5 Lunch Specials at Bin 36

Grilled cheese & tomato soup

Bin 36 is a staple in my work week lunchtime repertoire, especially when they have their amazing $5 lunch specials. That’s right — a delicious lunch (with wine, if you dare) in Chicago’s River North for $5. You can’t even eat fast food (not that I would) for $5.

The specials run for a week and range from the seasonally appropriate grilled cheese and tomato soup, to the wood-grilled burger, to niçoise salad and more. It’s always completely satisfying and oddly, it often isn’t crowded.

There’s about a month left for this run of $5 lunch specials. You can see the schedule here.

And you can thank me later for letting you in on this apparently well-kept secret.

Lakeview East Arts Festival

With summer winding down, I feel the need to take in any last street festivals that Chicago has to offer. It was a real toss-up this weekend, what, with the German American Fest, Renegade Craft Fair and the Lakeview East Arts Festival. As much as I love a good brat and beer, we opted for the arts festival instead. Every year I think I’m going to go but never do, so this year, I did, dammit!

Put on by the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce, this was the eighth year of the festival. With our $5 “suggested” (demanded) donation each, we were able to peruse the 150ish art stalls displaying everything from paintings to photography to jewelry and more. (I really hate when festivals “suggest” a donation, yet there’s always a guy with a money box standing at the entrance, essentially forcing you to pay. I have no problem paying a $5 entrance fee, but just call it that then. Interestingly, the arts festival brochure dubbed it a free event for all ages.)

There were some kitschy stalls and some really cool stalls. One that we especially liked was Second Chance Art & Accessories, which had all kinds of really neato pieces like framed maps, mirrors, hooks and so on.

Second Chance Art & AccessoriesSadly, we have no room in our current home for their Premier Cru Vineyard Wine Storage Table (nor do we need another wine storage piece, KP kindly reminded me). Still, I loved that this — and all the pieces — have a unique little story on how it came to be.

Second Chance Art & AccessoriesThere were plenty of great gift ideas, too, like these darling little jelly spoons from Heartfire Studios. Because really, your jelly does need a spoon of its own!

Heartfire Studios jelly spoonsWhen I saw a Chief coaster at Reformado Photography’s booth, I knew I had to have it. There were so many to choose from, many with iconic Chicago photos, but plenty of others featuring everything from sports teams to the Paris metro.

Reformado Photography coastersMany of the artists touted Chicago-centric pieces, like the guy from Twosided. KP and I have been looking for a piece of art in a specific size to add to our living room collage, and we fell in love with the Chicago box we found at his booth (it’s the brown wooden box in the upper left in the pic below). This photo doesn’t do it justice, but it’s a really cool piece of art. There are latches on the top and it looks kind of neat when opened, too, so we’re deciding if we’ll hang it opened or closed.

Art from Twosided

We’ve got under a month left of festivals, kids, so choose wisely.