May 29, 2013

Breakfast at Yolk and an Artful Afternoon

For those who don't know, I had my graduation ceremony last week.  Technically speaking, I still have a few more months until I finish the program and get a real diploma, but I managed to walk across a stage in funny clothes without tripping.  My mom came up to see graduation and celebrate my birthday early.

She stayed at the Allerton Hotel, just north of the river on Michigan Avenue, a.k.a. "the Mag Mile".  It's super close to shopping (leading to some ambitious shopping at Nordstrom's), food, and all that you stay downtown for.

A little bit on the history of the hotel for those interested:

The room itself was small, but nicely furnished, with all you really need.  They have a program where you can get a 10 dollar credit to food at the hotel for not having your linens changed during your stay.  I like the environmentally friendly aspect of this, but watch out that there are a number of exceptions to that credit, so that coffee you order in the morning might not be as free as you think it is.  Just be vigilant.  All-in-all, we really enjoyed our stay and it was well worth the very inexpensive cost to stay downtown.

the view from our window

We headed just around the corner to Yolk for breakfast.  I heard about it some of my friends in nursing school, so I figured this was the perfect time to try it out.  Out timing was perfect-  although the place was packed, a table opened up right as we came in.  Both my mom and I are indecisive with a menu and enjoy picking at a couple different options. We opted to get two different breakfasts to that we could share them both.  Plus we got to have a sweet breakfast and a savory breakfast!

My mom picked the Caprese Benedict- two poached eggs over fresh tomato, mozzerella, and pesto all on an english muffin and topped with Hollandaise sauce.  And then it comes with both fruit and potatoes.

It's seriously so much food.

So since she went savory, I went sweet with challah french toast with blackberries on top.
(If you want to try your hand at making your own challah, you can try out my recipe here)

Pardon the photo quality, we were operating on an iPhone, since bringing my beastly camera around with me is a bit much for breakfast and shopping.

The food was incredible.  Especially that Benedict Caprese.  I love anywhere I can get a poached egg, because that is way too much work to try at home.  The fresh tomato and mozzarella balance out the deliciously rich and creamy hollandaise sauce. It is well worth it.

I always love french toast, so it's hard not to be pleased.  But I was happy that I could opt to get fresh fruit on top- the blackberries were nice and tart and complemented the sweetness well.

Once our bellies were full and happy we were back on the street!

And just look how happy we are with full tummies!

We stopped in at Charming Charlie's for a few pieces of jewelry.  I am always totally overwhelmed by the amount of jewelry in that place.  But it's perfect for finding a little something to match an item.  Since I just got a brand new pair of teal shoes the day before, I focused on getting something to match those.  I lucked out with a few pairs of earrings, and a new watch (with a second hand!) for nursing.  Mom found a small silver watch that had a little bit of gold so it wouldn't clash with her wedding band.

Then we thought we'd just pass through Nordstrom's when we happened upon their massive Memorial Day Sale.  Nearly the entire women's floor was 40% off.  We may have done a little bit of damage, but hey, we're only together once in a long while right?  And we bravely managed to not get any mroe shoes.  Which is a serious feat considering this is their shoe sale:

That's probably less than a third of the sale section.  I even found a pair of grey suede wedges  by Jeffrey Campbell that were SO beautiful for maybe $80.  The lady who eventually bought them is a vey lucky lady.  I marvel at my own fiscal responsibility.

Figuring that we did enough damage for one day we went back out and headed north on Michigan until we hit those funny little castle buildings.  We went up to look at them, as I've always been curious how exactly they ended up there, and it turns out they're old Chicago Water Works buildings.

They had a sign out front saying that there was an art exhibit inside- it was all prints!  In college I minored in studio art, and I mostly made prints.  I seriously love this art form.  Wood cuts were my favorite to make, but I also really liked screen printing.  So this was a super exciting find for me.

The exhibit, Animal Kingdom, will be up until June 3rd.

I'm really upset about this, but I can't find my notes from the exhibit.  I wrote down each of the artist's names and parts of their bios to share with my dutiful readers, and I feel like a royal ass showing their work without being able to give credit.  I'm hoping to get back there so I can update this post, so we'll see.

The participating artists are Kathleen JudgeDan GrzecaThe Bird MachineDiana SudykaDelicious Design LeagueSteve WaltersPhineas X. JonesJohnny SampsonBilly CravenShawn Roberts and Robert Valadez.

I do remember that these first two works are by an artist originally from Buffalo, New York.  This is only an hour from my hometown, and we actually lived in Buffalo for a few of my formative years so it's always exciting to see someone from your neck of the woods.

All of the artists in this show are based in Chicago.

Shortly after we headed down to the Art Institute of Chicago.  I have a student membership there, which I absolutely love, recommend, and take full advantage of.  Joe goes to school downtown, so I'll go there before or after meeting u with him on his shorter school days.  

The Modern Wing 

It's one of the most beautiful museums I've been in, and I've gotten to the point where I know just which halls and corners have my favorite pieces for a quick tour. 


Seriously, it is so cool to see art in person that you feel like you've known for ages.  I personally love the whole impressionist section, but Van Gogh is my all time favorite.

After that, we met up with Joe and headed out to dinner at Emilio's Tapas.  
But for that, you'll have to stay tuned.  I'm off to finish some homework!  Ah the life of a student.

May 28, 2013

Happy Birthday Beer Bread!

This weekend I celebrated my 24th birthday!  It was a lovely low-key day spent with Joe and Oy, and it was the perfect way to relax after an exciting three days of graduation and exploring downtown Chicago with my mom (more on that later).

While maxing-realaxing all cool I realized that we still needed to make a birthday cake! My family has always taken the term "birthday cake" pretty flexibly as we never make cake otherwise and it goes largely uneaten every time.  My dad opts for spice cake, and since CJ and I are summer birthdays we usually go the route of angel food cake and smother it in strawberries and ice cream.  Sometimes we make brownies because we actually eat them.  I think I might even have had pie on one delicious occasion.  In any case, I started surfing through my "cookbook" which is an old binder jammed with print-outs and pages torn from magazines.  I found a contender- chocolate cake with a whipped cream frosting from a Penzey's catalog- but I also came across beer bread which we got much more excited about.

We figured you bake it and can put a candle in it, so why not?  We've even talked about how if we got married we could have a "cake" that was just layers of different breads and cheeses, so it's really just putting ideals into practice.

May 27, 2013

American Flag Blanket

This project has been underway for a little while, but Memorial Day seems a good day as any to finally post it.

In art, I sometimes would pick a theme and create pieces within it. It gave me an opportunity to explore a concept from a few different angles and experiment with new things.  After my recent post about how my work might as well be art, I figured why not pursue it like art?  I got out my sketchbook and started brainstorming some new projects.  My plan is to create a mini portfolio of projects and hopefully start selling some, so why not create a little series?

I've been wanting to make an American flag blanket for a little while now, and I had all the yarn already, so that seemed like the perfect focal piece.  From there, I started working on some ideas with sports teams that fell flat, and then ended up at stuffed animals.  As a biologist, I loved ecology best- studying animals, ecosystems, and how interrelated nature can be.  I especially love insects.  My personal faves are dung beetles and safari ants.  One of my favorite quotes is by biologist J.B.S. Haldane, who said that "if He exists, God has an inordinate fondness for beetles".  There are over 300,000 different species of beetles on Earth (in comparison, there are only 10,000 species of mammals).  So at least the big dude in the sky and I have our love of beetles in common.  

I started my stuffed animals with two very large (probably a foot and a half long and wide) dragon flies.  Green Darners, to be precise.  A male and female with as accurate coloration and proportions as can be expected with yarn and a crochet hook. I also just finished up an octopus squid (octopoteuthis deletron) that is super adorable, and will hopefully be posted on soon.  Both of these species are native to America.  I'll fill in some more information on them once they're done, but suffice it to say- they're sweet.  Next up:  giant carrion beetle. 

Before I get more distracted, here's the blanket:

I tried to make the sides as wavy as the ripples- as if it was actually blowing in the wind.  Plus it's less boring than a flat one.

I made my ripples by doing 8 stitches, increase one, 4 stitches, increase one, 8 stitches, decrease one, 4 stitches, decrease one. Every other row was sc across to keep it from bubbling up.

For the blue section I followed the ripple pattern with blue yarn, and added the stars afterwards.  I just embroidered them with a tapestry needle as if I was drawing a star.

There actually are 50 start, all in the same pattern as they are on the real thing.

And then for some pictures with my obligatory model- Oy the American Pit Bull Terrier.  He even has his matching flag collar on today!

Happy Memorial Day everyone!  Remember that while you're out spending time with family and friends it's important to honor those in the armed services.  

In honor of those who serve

Memorial Day is a time to honor those who live a life of military service-  those who gave their lives and those who live on with physical and mental scars.  Today we remember those who we've lost and give thanks for their acts of protection.

It's equally important to honor those currently serving, and the veterans who've returned to us.  Too many come home injured and wounded, many suffering from mental illness as well.  Post-traumatic stress is all too prevalent amongst our survivors.  In whatever way possible, large or small, I urge you to support those still with us as a way to pay homage to those who are not.  Tell a person in uniform you are thankful for their service.  Provide a compassionate ear to a friend whose served.  Treat a homeless veteran with dignity and respect.  It is not just the responsibility to the VA to care for our veterans- it is all of our responsibility.  They fight for us.  It is our responsibility to support them in any capacity we can.

Thank you to all who serve, especially Spc. Theodore Glende

Today I've been reflecting on a life lost 10 months ago today.  I met Theo during college through a few of our mutual friends from high school.  We only met a handful of times, but he left a large impact on me.  He was training in ROTC at the time to become an officer in the Army.  He had a biting sarcasm, quick wit, and a love for people laugh.  He eventually quit the officer program after finding out that he would be a reserve lieutenant.  He enlisted, and served in Afghanistan.  When he and his fellow soldiers were attacked he went into enemy fire to help those wounded- and saved the lives of five soldiers before being killed.  His death is a testament to his loyalty and courage.  He was only 23. He had just been married for three months when he died.  His loss is felt by all who knew him, but especially his family and brothers in arms.

Rest in Peace Specialist Theodore Matthew Glende.

May 23, 2013

My mom is cooler than your mom.

So it's a very exciting weekend around here!  Not only am I graduating today, but I'm also celebrating my 24th birthday!  Technically speaking, we're just walking at graduation and I won't be finished for three more months but it's still something to celebrate.

And it will be even be more fun to celebrate as my mom is on her way to see me as we speak!  She's even roughing it by herself on the train, that brazen lady.  I think my mom and I are a message of hope for all teenage girls and their mothers because we used to fight like cats and dogs in high school.  Mostly over clothes.  I used to have to change my clothes several times each morning, because as soon as I came down stairs she'd tell me to turn my butt around and change.  I might have pushed her buttons a little bit, and probably wasn't totally appropriate.  BUT now we're amazing friends.

I seriously love to hang out with my mom as much as I do my other friends.  She's hilarious, and we both get louder as we drink so neither of us feels the need to embarrass the other my yelling at them to quiet down.  We both love good food and cherish time with family- she is very must the instigator of Charm Hour- which I am infinitely thankful for.  Some of my best memories are sitting around the kitchen counter with my family over a bottle (or two) of wine and some appetizers talking about anything but politics.  Even in high school when I was snotty and bratty my mom would make me stick around for family time when I wanted to hang out with my friends who were totally going to be best friends forever.  So thanks mom, for some pretty sweet family values.  And for having a lot of fun with me.

And in case you didn't know, she's secretly a total bad ass.  Okay, so she teaches little kids, and dresses all classy, and sometimes says very silly words as swear words, but she is one really tough lady under all that.  Firstly, she worked for the government as a russian translator during the Cold War doing something sneaky enough that they tapped her phone. Secondly, my dad told her within weeks of proposing that they were just going to up and move to Germany to work for Kodak. Does she speak any German?  No. But she ups and goes and has a fucking adventure, which is what life is all about!

Then she has two troublesome little children, and decides to be a teacher's aide during the day while we're in school.  She had an MBA and was working for minimum wage making paper cut-outs.  As a kid it was seriously awesome because we could occasionally make cool stuff in their office, like laminated bound books.  Because she's very clearly a brilliant woman, the teachers would ask her to edit their letters home.  She kept thinking, "Man, I could what they're doing", so she went back to school and became a primary teacher.  And she is SO good at what she does.

And most recently she joined forces with my dad and started a daycare.  Left the job she enjoyed and worked at for over 12 years, and started fresh at a time when her friends are planning retirement.  Within a year they have over 100 students, from newborn babies up to 12 year olds.  And they've created jobs for over a dozen teachers, most of whom recently graduated.  Their teachers are fantastic.  They are each so excited to come in each day to see their class, and they have some of the most creative activities in their classroom that I've seen.  It's an amazing success they've managed to accomplish and I am so very very proud of them.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, but I am very lucky to have grown up with the female role models I did.

And now off to breakfast with my one and only Mom!   And hopefully some manicures and shoe-shopping to follow- I gotta look pretty for graduation, after all!

May 20, 2013


I really really like crepes.  I particularly love having an excessive number of leftover ones to keep in the fridge so I can wrap anything and everything in one for the next week.

This week's crepe invasion started as many do- I have way too many strawberries.  Three pounds of strawberries, to be precise.  They were only five dollars and I couldn't resist!  But now I have to figure out how to eat three pounds of them before they get mushy and gross.  Therefore, Joe gets sucked into over an hour of crepe cooking!  He's a very good sport about all this, really.

Before you get started, know that they take a long time.  At least they take me a long time, because as I said, I make about 5 times more than I need (I doubled the recipe below).  Dozens of crepes!

The recipe itself is simple.  Mix together 1 cup flour, 1 tsp sugar, and a dash of salt in a small bowl.  Mix 3 eggs and 2 cups of milk in a big bowl, stir in that flour mixture until smooth and a little frothy. Add 2 Tb of melted butter.  Pour a few tablespoons worth into a buttered pan on medium heat, flip when browned, and serve as you like!

As a note:  the first crepe is always terrible as it picks up all the pan's butter and looks ugly.  But from then on your pan should be just greased enough that you can just keep on churning them out.

 after you pour, turn your pan to get an even layer

You can tell this one's ready to flip as the edges are crispy, it looks mostly cooked through, and the underside is browned nicely.


stack 'em up! 

My all-time favorite filler is nutella and strawberries.

Simply spread your nutella in the middle:

throw on your berries:

And roll up burrito-style!
we always eat while cooking. 

May 16, 2013

The Amazing Rochestarian Chicken French

Although I'm in Chicago now, I occasionally get a tad homesick for the beautiful land of Upstate New York.  I grew up in a suburb of Rochester, near the Finger Lakes.  Most of my friends here, if they know it at all, know it for the casinos. Which I did not realize was that much of a thing.  But it is a stunning countryside with lots of lakes and trees and farms and our little city in the middle.

Food-wise, we're close enough to have fantastic Buffalo wings- or as we call them wings. Which should only be served with bleu cheese, for the record.  When restaurants ask if I want ranch it just makes me sad I even tried to order them in the first place.  

We also have the Garbage Plate- a late night/hangover staple that is as bad for you as it is delicious.  Home-fries and mac salad, with two meats of your choice (I go with cheeseburgers), all smothered in meat sauce.  So good.  

But the focus of tonight's post before I get myself even more distracted is the Rochester classic Chicken French.  From some rigorous research on google I can tell you that everyone had a different story.  The best was that some italians invented it at a world's fair in New York City in 1939 to attract customers to buy it as french cuisine was all the rage.  However it came to be, somehow this stuck in Rochester but no where else.  It's a standard at Italian restaurants throughout Upstate.  I didn't realize it was actually a Rochester thing until I had a hell of a time hunting down a recipe online.  I've taken a few into my cookbook as reference, but it always ends up with me winging it in the end.

Regardless of how it came into being, Chicken French is delicious.  It's a light egg-battered chicken in a white wine, lemon, garlic, and butter sauce that's usually served over spaghetti (but also makes quite the scrumptious sandwich).  

May 15, 2013

Bacon Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Just look at that beautiful crispy bacon.  Is there anything more delicious?

No. No there is not.

It took me a long time to come around to bacon.  It actually took me until my senior year of college.  As I said before, I was a late-comer to meat, and I hadn't gotten around to breakfast meat yet.

One beautiful evening when I was just a bit under the influence a bacon-extra bacon-pizza was delivered to Joe's dorm room.  I cannot possibly explain the amazingly mind-blowing experience it was when I tried it for the first time, so suffice it to say I am in love.  Also, because it took me so long to find and love bacon, I feel that I am justified in making up for lost time by eating lots of it.

Now, I know this is total insanity, so just bear with me.  I don't like pancakes.  I didn't grow up in  pancake family- I grew up in a french toast family (we were also a toaster family- not a toaster oven family).  BUT when I went to Stax I felt compelled to try their bacon chocolate chip pancakes.  Because for Pete's sake if there is a pancake I would love it is that one.  And holy moly are they delicious.

So Joe and I had our own go at them for dinner one night. (He is from a pancake and toaster oven family- we're total breakfast opposites).  They turned out great.

 Obviously, the first step is to make your pancake mix.  If you've got some top secret family recipe that's delicious- use it.  We just use bisquick because we're lazy, poor, and it's good enough for me.  Plus, as I said, I didn't grow up amongst pancake people- they're only for camping as far as I'm concerned.

Just follow the directions and you end up with this:

Step Two:  prep your add-ins.

In this case that's chocolate chips (I like the minis as they're not too overwhelming) and BACON!

Chop your bacon up.  Not bacon bits tiny- just chunks.

God that looks delicious.  I'm getting hungry for Second Dinner just looking at it.

Butter your pan, heat it up, pour your batter:

Add bacon:

And chocolate chips:

Getting puffy on top and crispy on the bottom?  Flip it!

Yummy yummy pancakes!

And yes, I do add more butter to these heart-cloggers.  If you're already going down, might as well go all the way!  Tomorrow you can drink water and eat salad.

Triple time!

 Even I can't serve just carbs for dinner, so we made some sides.

Green beans sautéed in bacon fat:

 jar-o-bacon fat

The bacon fat crisps them on the outside without making them shriveled and soggy.

Plus fried eggs:

one for two!

For hashbrowns we use those pre-shredded ones by Simply Potatoes and sauté them in butter or bacon fat, depending on the mood that strikes me.

The Plate!

And the spares:

We ate everything.