And Awaaaaay We Go!

August 30, 2012 at 12:54 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

I really did mean to write a post yesterday on our latest book club meeting but MAN that day got away from me before I knew it.  So I’ll do a very brief summary here – we read a really horribly long book and went out to share drinks/food/laughs while we talked about it.  I picked the book (1Q84 by Haruki Murakami) because it looked interesting and there were lots of copies in the Chicago Public Library.  What I didn’t realize is that the book was 925 LARGE pages.  This comes after my last suggestion which was long and just plain horrible…I think I’m probably banned from suggesting books for a while now.  Anyway most of us enjoyed the book but we all agreed it was needlessly wordy and much could’ve been cut.  So that was that and we’ve got some chick lit suggested for next time to give ourselves a break.

Aaaanyway…we leave for our trip abroad tomorrow!  I know the internet will be a lonely place without my blogging but I’m sure you’ll survive and I should be back in a week or so anyway.  This time tomorrow I’ll be boarding a plane in Miami headed to Quito, Ecuador, where we’ll have a driver pick us up to help us officially begin our adventure.  And I.  Cannot.  Wait.  Most everything is packed and ready to go and I just need to get through the rest of the day and (try to) get some sleep before we bust the hell outta dodge.  And by dodge I mean Chicago.

Get ready for us, South America!

I can’t really even focus on much more than that so I guess this will be it for today’s post.  I could discuss the goings-on with the Republication National Convention and how it makes me want to throw a brick at my TV, but I won’t.  I could also discuss how I accidentally read a big article this week on the dangers of the Amazon and how no sane person should ever go there but I’m trying to keep it far from my mind (you can see how well that’s working) so I won’t discuss it either.  What I will say is that I realize how very lucky I am to have so much travel under my belt and I can assure you I don’t take it for granted.  Exploring the world is something that’s always been important to me and so I’ve made it a priority but it’s not easy and I know many people don’t get these types of opportunities.  So I’ll do my best to enjoy every moment while I’m away and I’ll be sure to take lots of photos for this here blog for when I return.

Until next week!

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Around Town

August 27, 2012 at 12:01 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

As promised, Scott and I had a very nice (if not somewhat strenuous) bike ride on Saturday.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t proud of sticking through the roughly 15 miles we trekked and it felt good to face some of my fears on the mean Chicago streets.  It felt even better to yell at the drunk girls in my bike lane in Wrigleyville and scare them to the side, but that might just be because it was entertaining as hell to watch them scramble and stumble.

What a view!

We started with a quick trip to a coffee shop for a little pick me up and then headed to Montrose Beach, where we watched some volleyball players and took a ride out to the end of a concrete peninsula (see photo).  The beach there also has a wildlife/bird/butterfly sanctuary and so we spent a little bit of time hiking through that before again putting the petal to the metal and continuing on our way.  We rode around the bike path on Lake Shore Drive through Lincoln Park and stopped at another beach (Fullerton, for those of you following along at home), where I realized that biking takes a little more out of me than I was originally expecting.  We had plans to go on to the zoo (and we did actually do a drive by) but, in order to keep myself from smacking Scott upside the head with my bike lock, we opted for some food instead.  We both felt much better after a sandwich and energy shake and that was enough to get us through the drunks in Wrigleyville and back up to our neighborhood.  By the time we got home I was a hot, sweaty mess but it was also quite exhilarating and more than a bit of fun.   And other than waiting at a few lights because I wasn’t as daring/fast as Scott, I managed to keep up pretty well!

I will, however, not have a giant syrup-laden pancake breakfast before my next big bike ride.  Lesson learned.

Countdown to Ecuador: Four Days!

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Like Riding a Bike

August 24, 2012 at 2:42 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

Literally.

Over the weekend, Scott and I purchased bikes.  Or rather, Scott dragged me to Target and I begrudgingly bought a bike.  See, I’ve been extremely scared of owning a bike since, well, forever because where I grew up there were barely lines on the road let alone bike lanes.  I never had to deal with cars or traffic lights and the thought of navigating them on two wheels without the steel frame of a car pretty much scares the hell out of me.  I owned a bike in college and I believe I rode it once, and then I used to ride a little in the suburb of Chicago I (thankfully) briefly lived in before moving to the city.  However since being here I have not ventured out, mostly because I value my head not being a pancake on the sidewalk.  Nevertheless, Scott convinced me to give it a shot.

Not quite like this, though that would be awesome

And I’m actually glad I did!  This week has been a busy one with three different evenings spent with friends, the gym, the pantry and a book club meeting but I’ve managed to ride a bit anyway.  We also rode to the theater on Sunday, the day of the big bike purchase, and I only almost hit a parked car once.  Luckily for me, our neighborhood is fairly quiet and I’m surprisingly comfortable riding the streets (and yes, Mom, I have a helmet).  I’m excited to get back to it this weekend and Scott has actually planned a route that will take us to the beach, a butterfly habitat, an urban peninsula, the zoo and a beach-side bar near the zoo, all in one ride.  It sounds a little intimidating but also pretty nice, since walking or driving that route would likely take us all day.  Other than lots of bike riding and a little bit of last-minute shopping for our trip, I’m looking forward to a laid back weekend full of sleeping in and eating out.  Gotta enjoy those Chicago summers while they last!

 

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A Go-Go!

August 23, 2012 at 10:42 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

The trip’s still on!  I finally heard back from the vacation gods and the ash from the volcano is pretty much only affecting the opposite side of the town that we’ll be staying in and our hotel is still standing.  So that’s good.  And I’ve been assured that even if the winds change or the volcano gets more pissed off and starts spewing further than it currently is, the tour group will simply shuffle plans around so it doesn’t really change anything about our trip.  Wow, this whole letting-someone-else-deal-with-the-chaos-that-comes-with-travelling thing is actually kind of nice!  If we’re lucky, it’ll be calmed down when we arrive but not so calm that we miss out on some crazy photo opportunities.  And if anything, I’ll just be happy not to be melting in flowing pools of lava.

Interesting (to me) fact: the difference between lava and magma boils (see what I did there?) down to location.  Magma is molten material beneath the earth’s crust and lava is what it turns into once it comes out of the volcano.  Now you know!

And after today, I only have five more days of work until I’m outta here!  Not that I’m counting down or anything.

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History Repeats Itself

August 21, 2012 at 1:06 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

If you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you know that last year I went to Guatemala on a solo adventure.  You may also remember that the week before I left, I found out that the initial hostel booking I made and the hiking trip I planned didn’t actually exist and I had to start from scratch with totally different companies.  I freaked out for a hot minute but things worked themselves out, as they so often do, and I was very glad I didn’t cancel everything like I briefly considered.  Well here I am, 9 days from leaving for Ecuador, and I seem to be having deja vu.

Uh-oh

So this volcano is located in one of the cities we’re staying in and we’re supposed to be there two weeks from tomorrow.  According to the news seen in my Google Reader, this thing is exploding as I type and local residents have been evacuated.  Awesome.  I was reading through our itinerary to double-check this was the city in question and came across a line boasting “beautiful views of the breathtaking Tungurahua volcano”.  And that’s Tungurahua in the photo.  It certainly is beautiful and I’m sure will make for some great photo ops but it would probably literally be breathtaking and I’d rather not reenact any scenes from Dante’s Peak while on vacation.  I called the travel company and they said they would look into things and get back to me as soon as possible but they also assured me that they wouldn’t take us anywhere that was in any way dangerous.  So that’s good, right?

Eh, I’m not going to let this stress me out regardless.  Apparently that’s one of the perks of booking with a tour group – they do the stressing out for me!  Everything else is still a go and I’m just going to roll with it and see what happens.  That’s what this whole adventure thing is all about, after all!

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Paddle This!

August 20, 2012 at 10:41 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

Paddles.  You use paddles when you kayak, not oars.

Look what I can do!

And it was awesome.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a tad freaked out when we got started at Urban Kayaks, as the thought of plunging into the Chicago River sans Hazmat suit wasn’t something I relished.  I’ll even admit to snapping at Scott once or twice (or a dozen times) when our paddles would smack or I felt we were getting to close to the wall.  He handled it like a pro, though, and even maneuvered and turned us with the greatest of ease.  I probably could’ve managed this on my own but he looked like he could use a workout so I let him handle the heavy rowing.  Our group had roughly 15 kayakers in solo and tandem rides, and we had three tour guides with us throughout the evening.  Two basically rode around to ensure we didn’t kill ourselves while the main guide stopped us periodically to give us interesting tidbits of information about Chicago’s skyline and history.  She was very knowledgeable and I managed to feel safe during our 2 hour, 3 mile trek, even when faced with huge tourist boats and yachts that crossed our path.  I definitely felt like the little guy on the river when fighting the wake from these ships but no one in our group capsized so they weren’t anything we couldn’t handle.

This kind of adventure isn’t ideal for someone who doesn’t want to get wet, as our pants definitely absorbed some water throughout the trip.  It wasn’t too bad though and we paused long enough so I could snap some pictures (see above), and my arms weren’t nearly as sore as I was worried they were going to be the next day (must be all that iron I’m pumping).  The whole thing was a great way to check out the sunset over our lovely city and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to give it a try. There was a family with us that had a little girl who was probably 9 or 10 and a grandpa who had to have been in his 70’s so it’s age appropriate for just about anyone.  It really is urban, too – complete with a few pockets of nasty river smell and at least one dead fish.  But hey, that’s reality, right?  At least I didn’t fall in!

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Finally Friday

August 17, 2012 at 12:24 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

Have you ever noticed that it sometimes seems the week drags even longer when you start on Tuesday?  Yeah, I’m experiencing that.  Here’s the top three things on my mind on this beautiful Friday:

  • Kayaking.  I’m taking my first ever kayaking trip through a Groupon coupon Scott and I purchased a while ago.  We’re doing a sunset tour on the Chicago River and I’ve got my swimsuit packed and ready to go.  I’m only a little nervous that my perpetual clumsiness will come around once again to bite me in the ass, as only time will tell if I’m any good with an oar.  Do they use oars?  Maybe I should do some research…thankfully, if nothing else, the weather will be perfect.  75 and sunny with a 0% chance of rain?  You bet I’ll take it!

Well if they can do it, so can I

  • Brains.  I came across this article today, which basically talks about how a prehistoric human brain from a man who died over 2,500 years ago was recently found almost perfectly preserved in a bog in the U.K.  No, I don’t mean his skull, I mean the fleshy bits and pieces that usually turn into slime shortly after death.  It seems that this man was hanged then decapitated (it was a hard knock life in the Iron Age), after which his head wound up in a bog that helped keep the brain intact for all these years.  So yes, braaaaaiiiiins are definitely on my mind.
  • Also – Ecuador!  In exactly two weeks, I will be en route to South America, where I’ll be spending 8 days and seven nights exploring what a whole new (to me) country has to offer.  Woohoo vacation!

But first…woohoo weekend!  Let’s just hope I don’t whack Scott in the head with an oar paddle oar.  I guess I really should do some research.

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Did I Do That?

August 15, 2012 at 12:45 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

As I mentioned yesterday, my brainy self managed to lock my mom, sister and I out of my (3rd floor) apartment this weekend.  Not once, but twice.  The first time was easily understandable, as the three of us plus Scott all left together to go to the Cubs game and I ensured he was carrying house keys.  After the game, we stopped off for drinks and snacks and after a while Scott departed to go to a friend’s party and presumably increase his testosterone levels, since hanging with the women in my family can zap them pretty quick.  So we bid farewell to Scott and continued on our merry way, until I stepped one foot off the train and onto the platform closest to my house.  That’s when I realized we had neglected to swap back the keys.  Luckily, Scott is a rather great fellow and only laughed when I called him and told him what had happened.  So he left the party and trekked back to our neighborhood while Mom, Sis and I hung out with the Subway guy who loves me so much he let me use the bathroom for free.  (Sidenote: I also got to hear about his most recent failed dating experience while he semi-hit on my mom).  Anyway we met up within about 30 minutes and were reunited with the interior of the apartment, while Scott changed into some warmer duds and headed back out to his party.

After a few more beers (which may or may not have influenced what happened next), the three of us gals decided to take a nice

I feel her pain.

nighttime stroll through our neighborhood park.  We wandered around for 30-45 minutes and enjoyed the evening, while I meticulously held on to the keys to my front door so as to not lose them and screw myself all over again.  I guess I should point out here that 99.999% of the time I leave my apartment, I use the back door and my back door keys.  I very rarely use the front door and so when we left, I grabbed the keys that I thought would let us back in.  Since I was able to lock the door to the apartment itself I figured this would be the case.  Unfortunately, I neglected to take into account the fact that the lock to the actual building door had been changed about a month prior and my dumb ass never updated my front door key set.

So there we were, happily walking back to the apartment and looking forward to some food, more beer and a few nice showers.  Then I reached the building and realized I couldn’t get in.  I was told that the look on my face was priceless and I owe a good deal of credit to both my mom and sister for not ripping my head off at that very moment.  We all sort of laughed/sort of cried and tried to decide what to do.  Of course none of us had wallets (though we did have phones) so going to a nearby bar to pass the time was out of the question.  Mom had a half bottle of water but not much more (because, as I think I eloquently put it before we left, “It’s not like we’re taking a trek through the desert”).  My sarcasm strikes again.  None of us wanted to call Scott again because while we figured he wouldn’t exactly hate us (which he later confirmed), we just didn’t want to admit such stupidity and defeat.  I went ahead and tried buzzing every single unit in my building but no one responded at all, which was disheartening.  So we sat on the steps, Mom started saying Hail Mary’s and I fervently wished that the next person who walked by was a kindly neighbor.

Then, not two minutes later, it happened.  A group of people with beer in tow (and the first people to walk by since we realized what I did), turned into the courtyard.  My spirits soared as I asked the girl in front whether she happened to live in my building.  She did not.  Then I asked if she would mind just trying her key on my door for shits and giggles, and also to alleviate any lingering doubts I may have had.  Lo and behold – it worked!  We cheered, then raced up the stairs and enjoyed the comfort of my apartment once again.

Special thanks to my family for not killing me on the spot and to my boyfriend who simply laughed about the whole ordeal later that night.  And for the record, this was the very first time I’d locked myself out of my building since I moved in over a year ago.  And I’m going to do my absolute damnedest not to let it happen again.

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Take Me Out to the Ballgame

August 14, 2012 at 11:15 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , )

What a weekend!  I actually took Monday off to recuperate.  My little sister and mom came in town (late) Thursday night and we spent the next few days enjoying all that Chicago has to offer.  On Friday we met up after work and went to Millennium Park, where we met with Scott and another friend of mine and enjoyed food and beer while listening to classical music.  We had amazing weather all weekend, starting with that night, and it was a great way to end a crappy work week.

Might not have been behind the dugout but these seats were fine with us!

On Saturday we had brunch at one of my favorite spots in the city and then headed to Wrigleyville to watch the Reds beat the Cubs.  I’m not a huge fan either way but I do enjoy watching live sports and I’d only been to Wrigley Field once before so it was a lot of fun.  There were three of us wearing Cubs shirts and my mom stuck out with her Reds one but we were all pretty much just rooting for everyone.  We had a hat full of nachos that was so humongous that the guy in front of us asked for a photo and then we were pretty much kicked out of the park at the end because we were having such a ball that we didn’t want to leave.  But leave we did, and wandered to a bar for some more brews and of course, more snacks.  Saturday evening ended with a nice walk through my neighborhood, getting locked out of my apartment twice (more on that later this week) and watching a movie before bedtime.

Since Mom and Sis left on Monday, we had all of Sunday to enjoy as well.  We had yet another delicious brunch and then went to the beach so we could all have our food comas while enjoying the cloudy but still decent weather.  My sister hadn’t been to the beaches up here before so I’m glad we got to go and I’m also glad it wasn’t 100 degrees and extremely sunny.  After the beach we went to Retro on Roscoe, a street fest in nearby Roscoe Village.  My sister and I bought a couple of items and were finally able to exchange birthday presents (mine is in February and hers in May) so now we don’t owe each other a damn thing.  I gave her a nice drawing of Chicago to frame and hang in her living room and she bought me this super awesome, classy looking pocket-watch/necklace.  I’ve kind of always wanted a pocket watch so when I saw this one (yes, it works!), things all came together.  And now neither of us owes the other a gift until Christmas!  After the street fest we met with a girlfriend of mine for one last beer out on the town and then ended the night with a chick flick.

They left yesterday around noon and after picking up my apartment for a bit, I spent the rest of my day off on the couch.  It was much needed.  Actually, I also spent a little bit of time at the gym because after all the food and beer, that was much needed too.  It’s not easy coming back to work after a long weekend and a long weekend full of my favorite people and favorite places makes it even harder.  I’m just thankful it was all as fun as we hoped it would be and I’m already looking forward to their next visit!  That and of course the fact that I’ll be in Ecuador in three weeks!!

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Kopi Traveler’s Cafe

August 9, 2012 at 9:59 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

So it’s been a fairly chaotic week and I’ve had a lot on my mind.  I can’t even drink a cup of coffee because my head has been all over the place and I don’t want to make it worse!  Nothing bad is going on, which is good, but I’ll be glad when things calm down a bit.  That said, I’m going to write a little review for a place today that I mean to talk about (man I hope I haven’t already blogged about this…like I said, it’s been a long week) a while ago –Kopi Travelers Cafe in Andersonville (and yes, I know there should be an apostrophe in Traveler’s but for some reason that throw off the link, so deal with the grammatical error).

Oh so good!

I walked by this place with Scott a month or so ago and the eclectic decor, prayer flags, low tables, pillows in the windows and of course the menu drew us in.  It promised to be very vegetarian friendly and served beer to boot, so of course I had to give it a try.  I ordered the This Is Not An Italian Beef Sandwich, which is basically the meat-free version.  I don’t remember ever having an Italian Beef back in my meat-eating days so I didn’t really have anything to compare it to, but I can’t see how it could have been any better.  Hickory smoked veggie deli slices, grilled onions, roasted red peppers and pepperoncini on a toasted baguette served with chips – oh my god.  It came with a dipping sauce (and boy do I love my dips) so I was in heaven.  Seriously, if that sandwich had been a person I would’ve ditched Scott in a heartbeat and we would have lived happily ever after, never once looking back.  Sorry Scott, but it was honestly the best sandwich I’ve had in ages and I actually made him go back two weeks later so I could enjoy it again.

This place also serves breakfast all day but I couldn’t be bothered with that, although now that I’ve had the sandwich to end all sandwiches twice I should probably branch out and try something different the next time I’m in there.  I would try to review what Scott ordered but since I was so involved with what was on my plate, I couldn’t tell you what he had even if my life depended on it.  I do know that he had some fresh squeezed carrot juice, which he seemed to enjoy while I downed my beer.  I had an Allagash White brew to accompany my food and it paired fairly well, though I could’ve been drinking turpentine and it wouldn’t have made that sandwich any less delicious.  And it would’ve been the best last meal I could have hoped for.

Besides the seating available on pillows with a widow view, there are plenty of actual tables in the back.  There was also a little store that sold jewelery, bags, clothes, scarves and various knick-knacks, seemingly from all over the world.  A few of the beams in the restaurant were completely covered with foreign currency, which lent to the other-country feel of the place.  As much as I love Chicago, it was nice to pretend I was abroad, even it was just for an hour.

So yes, this is another restaurant that I totally recommend.  And if you ever want company I’ll gladly go with you…just be sure you don’t get between me and my sandwich.

 

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