Thursday, March 29, 2012

Jackpot Spending.

If you've been watching the news, you've probably heard how big the lottery jackpot (Mega Millions) has gotten.  It's around 500 million right now.  I can't even fathom that much money.

Anytime I think about the lottery, I end up dreaming up all of the things I would do with that kind of money.  It would go something like this.

1) Buy a house in Chicago's Gold Coast (or Lincoln Park) neighborhood.
2) Hire Jamie Meares to come and decorate said house. With no budget in mind.

3) Adopt a rescue dog or two.  Our little family would be made complete by a King Charles Cavalier and a Boston Terrier.

4) Go shopping for frivolous things. Especially shoes (lots of shoes).

5) Spend my free time volunteering at a variety of non-profits. And donate money to charities for children and animals.

6) Travel all over the world

7) Take care of my family

What would you do with that kind of money?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

St. Patty's Day Festivities.

St. Patrick's Day is a pretty big deal in Chicago.  We celebrated accordingly.

The day before, I trotted over to State street to look for something green and fun to wear (read: green pants!).  Unfortunately, I had no such luck.  Apparently everyone else in Chicago also wanted to wear green pants on St. Patty's day. I gave up and decided to just wear something I already had. Enter green scarf. (Boring, I know.)

The River was dyed green.

Obligatory couple photos were taken.

We spent time with friends (old & new) and watched the craziness from 17 floors up.

It wasn't as much of a celebration of our Irish heritage as it was a celebration of Spring temperatures.  A kick-off of sorts to the best months of the year in this city. Three cheers for Spring!

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Comparison Game.

I saw this image on Pinterest recently.  It really resonated with me.  I was so struck by how true of a statement it is.

I have to confess.  Like most women, I've been playing the comparison game since, well, as long as I can remember.  When I was little it was mostly trivial like who had the most American Girl dolls.  In middle school, it was who was the most "popular" (even as I type that I realize how ridiculous it is) and had the best Limited Too clothes (you know what I'm talking about).  In high school, it was more about who was the prettiest or who was going to what college.  In recent years, it has become less about stuff and more about life.

When I look at Facebook or blogs, I sometimes find myself having this internal dialogue.
[Seeing pictures] Aw that looks like the perfect proposal. Ah her ring is perfect. They look so perfect together. His bow tie matches her dress...SO cute.  Look at their apartment/house...looks like a page from House Beautiful.

[Followed by these thoughts] I wonder if they argue over who's turn it is to take the dogs out.  Does he leave his wet towels on the floor ever?  Did he complain about having to match or did he say "Babe, I would love nothing more than to wear that matching tie. I love when we match"? I bet they never argue about decorating. I bet he was all on board for those not so gender neutral pillows/wallpaper with pink in them.

People can make their lives/relationships/families/houses look and seem so perfect via Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. In reality, nothing is perfect.  I know this.  And I know that most of it is complete nonsense.  And a good bit of it is people who are also playing the comparison game trying to one up others.  I know this.  And yet, I still seem to struggle with measuring myself up against other people.

Lately I have been trying to keep this little mantra in mind. That comparison really is the thief of joy.  I must remember to count my blessings every day and remember that my life is not any worse or better than anyone else's just because it's different.  A different journey, so to speak.

So here's to making a better effort at starting each day with gratitude.  And worrying less about comparisons and enjoying this wonderful life that I am so lucky to have. A life where I'm surrounded by good people, an incredible family, a beautiful city (with tasty restaurants), and lots to look forward to when the time is right. Oh, and a boyfriend who puts most of his decorations* in the office/guest bedroom.

Do you share this struggle?

*I use this term loosely. And by "decorations" I mean signed sports memorabilia, grateful dead record covers, and taxidermy.

image via Pinterest

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Recent Eats

I mentioned the ridiculous amount of eating my sister and I did in my last post.  A couple people have asked about different restaurants recently so I thought I would follow-up with some thoughts on my recent eats.  

Vera. 1023 W. Lake St.

When our early Christmas dinner reservations with TG's parents at iNG got cancelled at the last minute (power outage), we opted for the newly opened Vera in the West Loop.  This cozy space has a wine bar (wines on tap, hooray!) and delicious tapas-style eats. Great for a date or a girls night out.  (FYI: They don't take reservations & are closed on Mondays). 

My favorite picks: Bread & Butters (yummy breads with different butter varieties), Brussel sprouts with Iberico ham, and any of the cheese selections.

Girl & the Goat. 809 W. Randolph Street.

Owned by Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard, this place lives up to all of the hype.  We were lucky enough to score the best seats in the house, the kitchen-side table.  We chatted with the kitchen staff and were entertained while we ate.  

Favorites: Best of Three (cocktail), sauteed green beans, grilled oysters (best I've ever had), duck tongue dish (sounds weird and gross but was my favorite dish of the night).  

RPM Italian. 52 W. Illinois

Giuliana and Bill Rancic (partnered with the Melman group) recently opened this restaurant up in River North.  I feel like I really need to try this place again in order to give it a fair review.  The decor is definitely nice and modern.  I could see this being a fun place for a date or a girl's night out.  The menu concept encourages ordering a variety of small plates and sharing  (like tapas, I suppose? Or is tapas only for spanish food?) The pastas tasted fresh and homemade... very delicious.  I had the Cacio e Pepe (spaghetti, caciocavallo, black pepper).  Luckily, I like pepper but for most people's tastes I think it would be too peppery. Pass on the truffle bread's not as good as it sounds.  Save the calories and have another cocktail instead.

Another thing: If you're under 21, I wouldn't try ordering drinks there.  We were ID'd at the door (to a restaurant? on a Sunday? weird.) and the bouncer (doorman?) loudly announced to the hostess to tell the waiter that we had a minor with us (my sister, 19).  We were again ID'd when we ordered our drinks at the table.  I thought this was really odd as we were not in the bar area and she was not even attempting to order a drink.  Strict-o, indeed.

I plan on going back and trying more dishes.  I just wasn't that hungry on the night we went. (Likely because I had been a compete fat kid the previous 3 days).  I want to love this place (as much as I lurve G and B) so I will be giving it another chance.

Hot Chocolate. 1747 N. Damen Avenue

This place is one of my favorites.  I've been for both brunch and dinner and it has been consistently good with great service.  It's ideal to do brunch and then walk and shop around Bucktown/Wicker Park.

Bottom line: Amazing brunch, awesome dessert menu and you must order one of the hot chocolate varieties (complete with homemade marshmellows).  No need to see the brunch cocktail list. Order the Bellini. 

Ruxbin. 851 N. Ashland Avenue

This place has gotten a ton of buzz in recent months.. and for good reason! It was recently listed at Number 5 on Bon Appetit's Top 10 Restaurants in America in 2011.  They don't take reservations so getting in is the hard part.  This place is also teeny tiny. We went on a Thursday night and had to wait for about an hour. Luckily, it's BYOB so we enjoyed our wine while we waited for a table.

We got the Pork Belly Salad (Jicama, Grapefruit, Arugula, Cornbread, Blue Cheese, Citrus Vinaigrette) and it was my favorite dish of the night. So bright and light but still really savory.  We also got the garlic fries (with chipotle aioli) and the Hanger Steak (wrinkled long beans, candied bacon, chimichurri, creme fraiche, heirloom potatoes).  Both were really great and worth the wait.  The only downside was the wait.  I would love to go back but doubt I will because of the no reservations policy.  

 images via 1, 2, 3, 4 (images in this post are not my own)
*This post contains my own personal opinions.  I did not receive compensation in any form for writing these reviews. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Chicago in a nutshell.

Last week, my sister came to Chicago for a few days. We basically did a marathon-style tour de Chicago. Plenty of coffee was sipped. And plenty of treats were consumed. (Plenty is actually quite the understatement.)

We hit almost all of the tourist-y spots.
And walked. a lot.
We shopped (of course).
Strolled down the famous Magnificent Mile.
All along State street.
Saw the famous Chicago Theater.
Ate Cupcakes at both Sprinkles and Magnolia Bakery.
Stopped by Cloud Gate (the bean). Which needs a good scrubbing asap. (Pictured above)
Ate Chicago-style hotdogs at Portillo's. A first for both of us. Verdict: delicious!
Got doughnuts at the sinfully delicious Doughnut Vault.
Walked through Lincoln Park.
And down Armitage Avenue.
Ate dinner at Table Fifty-Two Friday night.
And at RPM Italian on Sunday night.
And at Hot Chocolate on Monday night.
(See.. I wasn't kidding about the plenty part.  Don't judge. I've been eating salad since she left.)

We had such a fun time.
I was sad to see her go but we're already planning her next visit (this summer)! Stops at the Art Institute and Randolph Street Market will be made. And whatever summer festivals are going on at the moment.

Chicago people: where do you love to take out-of-towner friends?