Monthly Archives: March 2013

Small Things

I have just a few small things to share today.

First of all, Happy birthday to my nephew Akio!  This little guy officially turned four on Monday.

Akio Four

OK maybe he’s not so little anymore.  As his auntie who regretfully doesn’t see him everyday, sometimes I forget that he still doesn’t look like this:

Akio 1

I did wish him a happy birthday on his actual birthday, but I chose an inopportune time to call as he was just getting ready to open his presents.  So all I got in return was a “Hi! I’m going to go open presents now.”

Also on Monday, Patrick and a small team of classmates flew to China where they will be traveling for the next couple weeks to work on a design research project they’ve been planning for the past year.  They will be visiting a number of minority villages in Guizhou (the poorest province in China), including Jidao village, which I got the chance to visit last year.  While there, they will be working closely with an NGO to come up with a business plan to help the villagers sell their handicrafts in order to create sustainable income for their communities.

On their first day, before setting off to the villages, I’m told that they squeezed in a bit of site seeing.  Here is a spectacular, snow-covered view of the Forbidden City just outside their hotel:

The Forbidden City

They also made it out to the Great Wall on the first day:

The Great Wall

One of his teammates has put together a blog about their project.  You can read more about their experiences here:  http://impactchina.tumblr.com.

Meanwhile, I hope everyone had a fun St. Patrick’s Day.  Most people around here wandered into downtown Chicago and celebrated with a green beer and a lovely view of the green river.  While it was tempting to go and take part in the festivities, I had a more important engagement to attend:  The Evanston Community Garden Lottery.

A couple weeks ago, as Kelli and I were riding the train to calligraphy class, the idea came to us to check if there were any community gardens around Evanston.  We discovered there are actually four parks in Evanston with gardens and a lottery was held each year for the available plots.  As luck would have it, the deadline for registering for the lottery was on Tuesday, just three days later!

The lottery took place the following Saturday afternoon.  We were very nervous about our chances after hearing there were only 15 plots available this year!  Two parks were already completely full, and in the closest park near us, only seven of them were available (highlighted below).

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Over 50 people were vying for one of these 15 plots that day and FORTUNATELY I was the 10th person to be called!  I ended up choosing 39E – a lovely half plot with full sun, which is perfect considering that the plants I’m most excited to grow are tomatoes which require a lot of sunlight.

Patrick and I went to check out the plot the following week, and I was surprised at how spacious it was:

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I’m glad Kelli and I decided to team up and share one!  Hopefully this summer I will have some exciting updates on the progress of our garden.  I’m a little concerned since it’s my first time gardening and so far every plant that has come into my possession hasn’t lasted a week before dying.  Anyone have any green thumbs they would like to lend me?

And finally…

I leave you with a photo of the new miniature containers I acquired from Crate & Barrel a week ago – one for my flax seeds and the other for my Korean hot pepper flakes.  Aren’t they cute?!?

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It’s amazing how such little things like these containers can bring so much joy and excitement to my life…

Enjoy the small things, everyone!

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Weekend Update

Right now we seem to be suspended in that weird limbo between winter and spring.

Last week when the sun was shining high and the snow was rapidly melting away, I bought myself these pretty flowers from Trader Joe’s to celebrate the much-anticipated transition to spring (my second favorite season, next to fall):

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And YET as I walked to dinner this very night, snow was still hastily drifting down.  “Spring forward” suddenly became “Spring Back.”  I think winter is trying to make a point that it is still “officially” around for another week or so.

Luckily there have been plenty of distractions lately to keep my mind off of the nagging winter chill.

Last weekend, for example, Kelli and I took a 3-hour long calligraphy class at Paper Source (their Southport location).

While I initially struggled with my serifs and angles (particularly trying to make my b’s look less like 6’s), Kelli caught on fast.  I snapped a quick photo of her practice letters (which were significantly neater than mine):

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Eventually after some practice, I think I started to get the hang of it, too.

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(“Tongsang” means “younger sibling” in Korean and is also my nickname for Mikala).

Our instructor makes a living off of this and has an entire binder filled with various writing styles and samples.  She currently has two weddings in the works, addressing over 200 envelopes!  Too bad I didn’t pick this skill up before my wedding…  Although I think it’s safe to say the printed labels we ultimately used were a bit more economical and time-saving.

Following our class, Kelli suggested a late lunch at Julius Meinl just down the street.  Though they are known for their coffee, Julius Meinl (an international coffee company based in Vienna, Austria) also has three coffee shops in the U.S. – all located in Chicago.

Their beverages are served on these fancy silver platters and come with a complimentary biscuit.

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They are known for their traditional Viennese pastries and their decor is such that you walk in and feel as though you have been transported to Europe.

I was pretty much famished and ordered their roast beef sandwich with apple-horseradish cream on pretzel bread.

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The sandwich was delicious and has inspired me to try to make a version of my own at home – luckily they sell pretzel bread at Trader Joe’s!

For Sunday brunch the following morning, I met up with Jessica (my ever-so-talented co-writer on Edible Prose!) and Ryan, whom I hadn’t seen since my wedding.  I chose Mindy’s Hot Chocolate because it’s been on my Chicago bucket list since I arrived here, and they were kind enough to oblige me.

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Both Jessica and Ryan used to live in Chicago, but have since moved away – Ryan is currently in San Francisco and Jessica is in Ann Arbor.  Lucky for me, they both happened to be visiting Chicago during the same weekend.

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Though there was a whole menu of tempting hot chocolates to choose from, we all opted for the Mexican hot chocolate, which is made up of 2/3 dark chocolate and 1/3 milk chocolate with a hint of cayenne pepper and cinnamon.  It was also served with a house-made marshmallow.

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I also ordered the Veggie Scramble, which featured roasted sunchokes, Tuscan kale, red onion, parmesan, breakfast potatoes, grilled house-made challah bread.  I was intrigued by the presence of the sunchoke which I hadn’t heard of before, but later discovered it’s the same thing as a Jerusalem artichoke which I had tried for the first time at work a few months ago.  In the scramble, it tasted a bit like a mushroom.  I think it’s my new favorite vegetable.

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Our brunch was short, but sweet (maybe it had something to do with the hot chocolate).  Hopefully I will get to see these two again soon!

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Later that night when struggling with what to prepare for dinner, I decided to entice Patrick with a trip to Epic Burger.  I knew the only way to get him away from his studies was to lure him with burgers and the plan worked perfectly 🙂

Epic Burger sits on the outskirts of the Old Orchard Mall and has been in our sights for awhile.

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After just one meal there, I think this place is fast becoming my favorite burger joint.  Not only was their food delicious, but their ingredients are high quality.  Their beef is grass-fed, their eggs are cage-free, their milkshakes are made with organic ingredients, and they offer a whole wheat bun.  Win, win, win.

Patrick ordered the epic burger with grilled onions and a fried egg.

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I ordered the turkey burger.  They also offer a chicken sandwich and a portabella burger that I want to try.

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And did I mention their fries are fresh-cut and seasoned with pure sea salt?

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I don’t know about you but I could really go for a burger right now…

Enjoy the last few days of winter, everyone!

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Spring Pinterest Party

Caprese Pasta

I love Pinterest and the sheer wealth of ideas that comes from it.  Everything from fashion trends, craft and DYI ideas, book recommendations, recipes, and photography can be shared and stored in one convenient, organized space.

The problem is that I rarely get around to making anything from my Pinterest boards despite the fact that they seem to keep growing and multiplying at a rapid rate.

That is, until late last fall when Jenn, Kelli, Lauren, and I met up for hot chocolate at The Unicorn Cafe.  At some point in our conversation we realized that we all seemed to share this same tendency.  And in that moment, the solution became quite obvious 🙂

Pinterest

(Photo taken from Jenn)

One month later we held our first official Pinterest party.  Our menu was designed to reflect the winter holiday.  We made Winter White Sangria with PomegranateRoasted Tomato & Rosemary Soup with Kale & PotatoesRaspberry Brie Grilled Cheese PaniniSoft Pretzel TotsChocolate-Nospresso Mint Snowcaps, and Fruit Tarts.  (You can read more about our inaugural Pinterest party on Jenn’s blog, Eating Bender.)

Fast forward to last Saturday.  Jenn was back in town for a work conference, which gave us the perfect excuse to throw a Spring Pinterest Party.  Our new menu featured the following pins:

Roasted Blueberry Basil Margaritas
Hummus Cups
Black Bean Sliders
Caprese Pasta
Blueberry & Peach Pie Pops (using this recipe for the filling)
S’mores Pie Pops

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I was particularly excited about the Hummus Cups because it meant I got to use my mini muffin tray that I received over Christmas (thanks Mom & Dad!).

Lauren went to work slicing the cucumber & tomatoes…

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… while I went to work on the cups, which we made out of a selection of whole wheat & white pizza dough.

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Once the cups were out of the oven and cooled, we filled them with hummus (we all agreed Sabra is the best brand!) and topped them with the vegetables.

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Meanwhile Jenn & Kelli got to work on the pie pop fillings.  We decided to make two different kinds: blueberry & peach pie pops and s’mores pie pops.

DSC_0006S'mores PopsPie HeartsPie PopsFor the S’mores Pie Pops, the pie dough was cut into various shapes, brushed with butter, then coated in graham cracker crumbs.  It certainly made for quite the winning combo.

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Meanwhile, our fruit pie pops featured a delicious mix of blueberries & peaches.

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And I got to display them on this cute glass cutting board, also a Christmas gift thanks to Bill & Sue! 🙂

Pie Pops

For our second appetizer, we made black bean burgers – of the “slider” variety.

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It should be noted that, while cooking, Kelli was kind enough to sacrifice her hand saving these babies when the pan almost fell on the floor.

Black Bean Burgers

Thankfully, it was a worthwhile save.  The finished burgers were topped with cheddar, sour cream, guacamole, and salsa.

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For the entree, we made Caprese penne, featuring whole wheat penne, basil, cherry tomatoes, and these cute pearl-shaped mozzarella balls.

Caprese Pasta

This dish took almost no time at all to make.  I highly recommend it as an easy weeknight meal.

Caprese Pasta

And what Pinterest party would be complete without something to toast ourselves with?  This time around, we chose the roasted blueberry & basil margarita.

The blueberries were roasted in the oven for about 10-15 minutes until they burst and deepened in color.

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They were then blended with a combination of basil-infused simple syrup, Grand Marnier, and Tequila.

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It was only a matter of a few hours before our entire table was complete.

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I may have started with the S’mores pie pop…

Pinterest Party Team

Once we were officially full, our night continued with an intense game of Wii Mario Party followed by an even more intense night of singing at Lincoln Karaoke, which I believe is going to become an official post-Pinterest party tradition.

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Complete with tambourines, of course.

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Needless to say, Summer Pinterest Party is already in preliminary planning mode with talk of homemade salted caramel ice cream on the menu.  And who knows what other future pins await us 🙂

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