Category Archives: Friends

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

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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.

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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.

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The second best part?  The candy buffet.

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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.

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

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

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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):

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

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

8.  Meeting Molly Moo

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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.

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

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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 🙂

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

7.  Apple Picking

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

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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.

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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).

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

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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…

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6. Goodbye Garden

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

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… it was time to accept the inevitable:

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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…

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…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…

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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.

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

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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:

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

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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 🙂

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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:

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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…

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Windy City Welcome: Part 2 (Korean Edition)

First and foremost:

CONGRATS!!! to my sister/”wombmate,” Mikala, and her fiance, Kyle, on their engagement!!

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This all went down a couple weeks ago during their recent trip to Madrid, Spain where Kyle proposed at Puerta del Sol, which is (appropriately) the very heart of the city.

We’re very excited to be officially welcoming Kyle into the family.  I’ve already pinned about 10000 things onto Mikala’s Wedding Pinterest board.  Let’s just hope she likes navy blue, coral, and antique gold for her wedding colors…

Around the time Kyle was plotting his proposal a few weeks ago, my brother Jihoon, his wife Bora, and their friends James and Joy flew here from Texas for a visit.  All four are originally from South Korea but moved to Texas last January to study theology.

In honor of their stay, we decided to do a cookout (and by “cookout” I really mean crowding around the grill on our tiny balcony).  I introduced them to the wonderful world of Whole Foods, where we picked up some pricey necessary provisions.

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As tempted as I was to turn this into Korean BBQ night, I knew this was their first time (except for Jihoon who was here previously for my wedding) in the Midwest, so we wanted to keep it simple and classic.

On the menu:

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Not pictured: Roasted Potatoes

And of course there was plenty of kimchi!

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Unfortunately our kitchen table only seats four, so we crowded around the coffee table.

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Later that night, we followed up with some Andy’s Frozen Custard to treat Jihoon + Bora for their well-earned Yahtzee victory.

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On Sunday, we checked out Willow Creek Community Church (their main branch in South Barrington, IL) – definitely the biggest church I’ve been to as evidenced by the fact that there is an information booth when you walk in along with escalators leading up to the second level.IMG_1887

Since Jihoon is a pastor in South Korea, I expect his church to be this size one day.

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One of my favorite Korean snacks is kimbap, which is sort of like the Korean version of Japanese maki rolls but the flavors/ingredients are slightly different and it is consumed more casually as a snack.

I love eating kimbap at picnics, but the problem is that you kind of have to make a significant amount of kimbap to make it worth buying all of the ingredients and putting forth all of the time and effort.  Most people in Korea can buy it by the roll for $1 or $2 each from stands, convenience stores, or restaurants, but unfortunately we don’t quite have that luxury in the U.S.

That said, having a group of Koreans staying at my house seemed like the perfect excuse to make kimbap.  So I bought the ingredients in advance hoping they would oblige me… which thankfully they did!

Bora seasoned the rice liberally with sesame oil and salt.  We just used regular sushi rice.

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Joy helped prepare ingredients, which included imitation crab, ham, eggs, spinach, carrots, and pickled radish.  Other popular ingredients for kimbap include canned tuna with mayonnaise, kimchi, bulgogi, and cheese (not all on the same roll.. that would be interesting.)

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Somehow we managed to coerce the guys into helping us roll.

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Enthusiasm points go to Jihoon and Patrick 🙂

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Ideally we would’ve enjoyed our kimbap with a picnic on the beach near my house under the sun.  The beach, however, was charging $8 per person for admittance and the sun was nowhere in sight.  So we settled for this grassy area which was not a bad compromise as it allowed us to play frisbee and watch the ducks.

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Speaking of ducks, later that night, for their farewell dinner, we took everyone to Sun Wah for some rather phenomenal Peking Duck.

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This place is always super crowded with ridiculously long waits, even with reservations.

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They recommend ordering the duck in advance to make sure they don’t run out.  The duck is then brought out whole and carved tableside.

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You stuff the duck inside these little buns with some carrots, scallions, and hoisin sauce.

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Nom nom.

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Thanks for coming out guys!  Can’t wait to visit you in Texas sometime soon 🙂

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It appears I am behind on my updates so I am going to try to catch up this week!  Expect more posts soon 🙂

Monica

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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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