Monthly Archives: November 2013

San Francisco Revisited – Day One

After venturing to Northern California twice last summer, I made my fall appearance last weekend – this time with the in-laws, Bill and Sue.  And Patrick, too, of course.

DSC_0007

As a huge fan of all things bread, particularly in the sourdough realm, I could not turn down another opportunity to go to Boudin Bakery for breakfast.

DSC_0008

I did, however, miss my second opportunity to buy that turtle bread.  And this time there was a Teddy Bear with a bowtie to go along with it.  Ah, next time…

DSC_0001

After breakfast, we took a quick stroll around Fisherman’s Wharf.  We passed a kite store with this particular kite disseminating deep philosophical truths.

DSC_0018

Next, we headed to Pier 39 to see some sea lions, which Patrick and I somehow missed on our last trip here.

DSC_0024

DSC_0032

The place was crawling with sea lions.  They were piled on top of each other like sandbags, basking in the sun.

DSC_0049DSC_0064

These two below were engaged in a heated fight, trying to knock the other off the platform.  Not sure why one had a number on its back, but it kind of made him more intimidating.  Like he’s been around the corner and back.

DSC_0073DSC_0067

I had fun testing out the limits of our new zoom lens, getting up close and personal with these guys unbeknownst to them.

DSC_0038DSC_0039DSC_0074

On our way back, Patrick zoned in on these mini donuts.

DSC_0091_01

So, naturally:

DSC_0089

Next we popped into the Musee Mechanique, which was one of our favorite stops last time.

DSC_0095

DSC_0110

Along with funding all of the execution machines (this time including the Tower of London version), we also “played” this Opium Den machine, which is not racist or offensive in the slightest.  Also, Patrick informed me that the Chinese symbols aren’t real.. just a bunch of scratches made to look like Chinese characters, haha.

DSC_0101

When you put the coin in, the box opens, the dragon pops out, and the skeleton swings from the door.

DSC_0102

In addition, we played several old-school music boxes, which sounded more or less like music.

DSC_0100DSC_0103

And Patrick and Sue engaged in a fierce bicycle spinning battle.  I don’t recall who won, so I’m just going to say it was Sue 🙂

DSC_0104

After spending all of the quarters we had between us (and then some), we took a driving tour of the city and ended up in Golden Gate Park.

DSC_0114

DSC_0123

Sue had the genius idea of doing some perspective shots.  I made Patrick pose for this one which, admittedly, is not very impressive.  But the fun continues later on…

DSC_0122_01

We stopped for a quick lunch at Beach Chalet, which had delicious clam chowder and a lovely view of the beach.

DSC_0127DSC_0128_01DSC_0130

Then it was time for our nighttime tour of Alcatraz.  I made this photo black and white to make it look older and historic and to put you in the mood.

DSC_0017DSC_0131

While in line, we tested out some more perspective shots.

DSC_0133DSC_0141

Once on the island, I invented my “Thinker pose” – because, despite the fact that it makes no sense, just standing there for a photo can be kind of boring sometimes.

DSC_0154

We took the same audio tour, but this time we were greeted with beautiful nighttime views of San Francisco, starting with dusk.

DSC_0166DSC_0168

Let’s be honest, we all look kind of awkward in this photo… (it was extremely windy).

DSC_0173

Here is a view of the beautiful sunset over the Golden Gate bridge obscured behind the gated walls of the prison (kind of symbolic if you think about it…)

DSC_0158

And, almost instantaneously, dusk gave way to darkness.

DSC_0188

Inside, it was a bit more eerie now that it was nighttime.

DSC_0199

At the solitary confinement rooms, I pulled out my Thinker pose again.

DSC_0161

But then decided it required a more solemn representation.

DSC_0162

Patrick also got in on some Thinker pose action.

DSC_0180

All in all, a good time.

DSC_0159DSC_0179

After riding the ferry back to the mainland, we headed to Little Italy for dinner.  While waiting for a table, we stopped at a cute Italian cafe for a drink.  Patrick and Bill both ordered this beer called La Rossa.

DSC_0206

After a very patient (and starving) 2 hour wait, we finally made our return to Tony’s Pizza Napoletana aka the Best Pizza in the entire world (literally, considering the chef is an 11x world champion!)

DSC_0210

I say it was worth the wait.  Their menu features different styles of pizza from all over the US and Italy.  Last time Patrick and I tried Jersey’s Original Tomato Pie, which was outstanding.  This time we ordered the New Yorker, which was cooked in a 1000 degree coal oven and was a gold medal winner in Las Vegas this year.  Also outstanding in its own right.

DSC_0211

Can’t wait to return to this place and try their other unique, award winning pizzas!

DSC_0213

Stay tuned for Day Two…

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Fall in a Nutshell

It’s time to play a little game called “Long Overdue MEGA POST.”  Who’s ready?

Here are the top ten highlights of the fall thus far (in somewhat order of occurrence):

10. Katie and Bryan’s Wedding

DSC_0050

Towards the end of September, Patrick and I flew to Yorktown, PA to see Katie, aka my college roomie x3 (Lewis Hall, London Flat 25, & Breen-Phillips Hall), get married.  The wedding was stunning and so was the bride.

DSC_0047

Katie and MonicaPhoto courtesy of Kristy

The best part of the weekend?  Getting to see so many of my Notre Dame friends – the likes of which I had not seen all under one roof since my wedding in ’09.

DSC_0119

The second best part?  The candy buffet.

DSC_0091

9.  Notre Dame Football

One big advantage of living in Chicago is that South Bend is only a mere 2 hour drive away, allowing easy access to Notre Dame football games 🙂  This year I was able to cheer on the Irish in person on two separate occasions, first at the ND vs Oklahoma game with Patrick, Bill, and Sue.

IMG_2669

We hit up all the essential spots on campus, like the Basilica where Patrick and I got married.

IMG_2831

Inside the stadium, Patrick and I had a perfect view of Touchdown Jesus (whose spirit was decidedly absent towards the end of the game).

IMG_2676

And just last weekend I made a second return to campus for the ND vs Navy game, this time accompanied by Susan, Katie and Joung visiting from KC and DC, respectively (photos courtesy of Susan’s blog):

nd game

game-watchers

We had spectacular seats, and unlike the ND vs Oklahoma game, this one resulted in a victory (though a little too close for comfort).

IMG_2816

For more details on the game, I recommend checking out Susan’s latest blog post.

8.  Meeting Molly Moo

DSC_0128

During the first weekend of October, we made a quick weekend trip to Kansas City to meet our adorable new niece, Molly, for the first time and attend her Baptism.

DSC_0139

DSC_0122

DSC_0126

This may spark memories of when a certain big sister/goddaughter, Claire Bear, was baptized just a couple years ago.

DSC_0177

Much like her big sister, Molly handled it like a pro, pretty much sleeping throughout the whole ordeal.  She must get her sleeping skills from her Aunt Monica 🙂

DSC_0169

You can read more about Molly’s special day on Susan’s post and Aunt Jenn’s post.

7.  Apple Picking

DSC_0547

I went apple picking for the first time this fall and apparently enjoyed it as I decided to go two weekends in a row 🙂

DSC_0396

First I headed to All Seasons Orchard in Woodstock, IL with Kelli, where highlights included apple cider doughnuts, the petting zoo, the corn maze, and plenty of apple and pear picking.

DSC_0406 DSC_0533_01 DSC_0287_01

For my second apple picking expedition, I went with Patrick and some of our KWESTie Besties – Ann, Aaron, Scotty and Lindsay- to County Line Orchard in Hobart, IN where they have a huge Blackhawks shaped corn maze that we dominated (err, they dominated it and I pretty much just followed along as they lead the way).

photo

This place was gigantic and we may have made several trips for hot apple cider and pumpkin donuts.

IMG_2748

With such an overwhelming number of apples taking up counter space in my kitchen, I was able to clear some space by making an apple crostata and this apple butter recipe, both of which are super simple yet delicious.  And somehow I still have apples left sitting around my house…

IMG_2746

6. Goodbye Garden

It’s the circle of life.  After spending an amazing summer witnessing the miracle of life…

IMG_2400

… it was time to accept the inevitable:

IMG_2612

IMG_2623

It took two visits, but we finally cleared everything out of our garden and left it looking much like how we found it – empty and bare.

Our community garden this summer was definitely a rewarding (though time-consuming) experience.  I think next time I will wait until I have my own yard to tackle another garden.  I did attempt to grow herbs in my apartment from some of our cuttings…

DSC_0004 DSC_0005

…but sadly with the cold air and total lack of sun, I think these babies are doomed.  Back to buying herbs at the grocery store.  It was fun while it lasted!

5. Monday Late Date Night

This fall Patrick managed to return home for four weekends in order to attend a Monday night class in the city.  We decided to take advantage of this situation and knock some restaurants in the city off our bucket list, establishing a new Monday Late Date Night tradition.

Around 9pm I drove into the city to pick him up from class and from there we headed to a late dinner.  Though sleepy on my part and often jet-lagged on his, it was a convenient time to go since a lot of popular restaurants that would normally require a reservation during the weekends had no wait at all.

The restaurants we hit up were:

GT Fish & Oyster
Little Goat Diner
Quartino
Longman & Eagle (double date with our friends Shindo & Haruka)

All of these places were amazing, but I’m still dreaming about the kimchi po’ boy sliders from GT Fish & Oyster…

IMG_2652

Next year when Patrick returns for good, we plan to reinstate some version of this tradition (maybe a little earlier in the night, however).

4. Josh Groban

A few weeks ago, I dragged accompanied Patrick to our second Josh Groban concert.  It’s been a little over a year since we last saw him at Disney Concert Hall for my 28th birthday.

Though I liked the set list at the last concert a little more, he sounded just as amazing this time around and our seats were a lot better than I expected:

Can’t wait for his next concert 🙂  Still waiting to hear him sing Per Te live (pretty sure this is never going to happen..)

3. Art Institute of Chicago

You know how I love hometown tourism.. Yesterday, thanks to Kelli, I finally visited the Art Institute of Chicago.  Our visit was short, but sweet since we also had some shopping on our agenda.

My favorite exhibit by far was the Thorne Miniature collection, which are elaborate miniatures modeled after European (and American) interior designs from the 13th century to the 1930s.  Hard to believe these aren’t full scale.

miniature french boudoirSource

In addition, I loved seeing some pop culture favorites, like the American Gothic painting:

IMG_2827

The subjects are so convincing in this portrait that I am always amused by the fact that the models were the painter’s sister and his dentist.

We also spent some time in the Modern Art Wing, the newest section of the museum.  Modern Art is fascinating to me because it really challenges what we define as “art.”  One display was just an empty room with scrap metal and wool pads strewn across the floor.

What I love about Modern Art is discovering the complex, often unsettling stories that emerge behind what we view as such simple, everyday things.  On the surface, this is literally just a pile of candy in a corner, which visitors were invited to take a piece from:

IMG_2820

Totally bizarre and random until you realize the artist’s interpretation:

IMG_2819

Makes one think…

2. NaNoWriMo

Last month I surprised myself and signed up for NaNoWriMo – a national writing project that occurs every November in which various people take on the challenge of writing a novel (50,000 words) in one month.  Lately it seems to be somewhat of a flailing, vain attempt on my part, but so far I’ve managed to keep my head just barely above the water with my word count goals and I still have every intention of seeing it through to the other side of November.  We’ll see what happens 🙂

NaNoWriMo

1. Insanity

Not sure if this even warrants mentioning, BUT… next January I am planning to join the Insanity and try out Shaun T.’s Insanity Workout Program.  I know there is a big debate over this program vs. P90X, but I’ve chosen this one simply so I don’t have to invest in all the equipment required of P90X.

That said, I’ve been trying to up my workout regiment so I don’t force myself to go from working out a mere 6 times a month to 6 times a week (that could be an interesting transition).

So far it’s been hit or miss depending on how busy I am, but I’ve reverted to my inner 3rd grade self and started rewarding myself with stickers every time I complete a workout 30 minutes or longer.  I’ve been alternating between Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred and Boost Metabolism, with a few random XFinity workouts thrown in (more challenging than one would think).

If you are like me and still harbor a childlike affection for applying stickers to things, then I recommend using this method to keep track of your workouts.  Ultimately, when all is said and done, it’s also nice getting a birds-eye view of my progress:

IMG_2834

This month is certainly challenging with NaNoWriMo taking up most of my time, but come January I’m hoping for the page to be filled with smileys.  Also, perhaps next year I should choose a different calendar for recording my progress.  Mmm, pork tots…

IMG_2833

Tagged , , , , , ,