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tripping [chicago].

3 Aug

After the wedding on Sunday, my parents and I had until Thursday to sight-see and take in the city.  First on the agenda was a guided boat cruise of Chicago architecture with everyone who was still in town for the wedding – including the bride and groom!


It was a great tour – Chicago’s architecture is truly the most captivating of any city I’ve been to, at least in the U.S.  We snapped photos and learned about modernism’s “austerity” vs. post-modernism’s “contextualism.”  Cue a new obsession forming for me…I looooove me some post-modernism.


one day married!

After the cruise, a bunch of us went to lunch along the river.  I had a Revolution Anti-Hero IPA.  No, waiter, I will not shy away when you warn me that it’s “pretty hoppy.”  It was excellent.

That evening, my family, Ryan’s family, and Justin’s family headed out to Wrigleyville to watch the lackluster Cubs take on the equally uninspiring Brewers. It was awesome catching  a game in Wrigley – although I do prefer Dodger stadium’s feel.  I had an Old Style and a hot dog, which apparently you’re not supposed to eat with ketchup.  I guess I learned that one the hard way.




Instead of staying at the Hyatt again, my parents rented a brownstone in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood using VRBO.  It was cool to check out a different (adorable) neighborhood and to see the city from a different angle.

On Tuesday, I slept in and may have used the morning to catch up on The Bachelorette, after I had heard the internet exploded.  I have HATEEEED this season.  Des is the least interesting Bachelorette, ever, but reading Reality Steve’s spoilers have kept in mildly interesting.  Once my pop-culture prowess was restored, we set off for more Chicago tourist jaunts.  First up on the list was another deep-dish place, Uno.  Delicioussss. IMG_4289I took my parents by “the bean” and Jay Pritzker Pavilion, my new favorite Frank Gehry piece.  If you haven’t gathered by now, I am FG obsesssssed.  He designed my law school, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Bilbao’s Guggenheim, and a building in Prague I loved (the Fred and Ginger House).  He’s super funky and whimsical, and now when I go to a new city I Google “Frank Gehry” there to make sure I stop by and see whatever it is he’s designed. [Note: I get quite a bit of flack for this, a lot of people think Gehry is “weird.” Nope, I love him].  I am bummed I didn’t make it to an outdoor concert here.  I guess there’s always next time!

IMG_4240Also on Tuesday, we headed to Chicago’s Art Institute.  They had a lot of great pieces, but I was especially drawn to the Van Goghs and Monets.


Monet – Wheat stacks


Monet – Water lilies


Van Gogh – The Drinkers

It was also really great seeing American Gothic and A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte in person as well.

That evening, my parents and I had a couple of drinks on the 96th floor of the John Hancock building.  Although it’s not quite as high as the observation deck on the Willis (formerly known as Sears) Tower, I’d heard the views were far superior.  The views of the city from the Signature Lounge at the John Hancock could truly not be beat. Tip: If you go, make SURE you check out the restrooms.  Some of the best views are in there!

IMG_4309We also hopped around Navy Pier and walked around the city a lot.


On Wednesday, I went on a run to Lincoln Park and then did a little exploring back over by the bean.  One of my law school friends, Greg, gave me a whole list of recommendations (more on that later) so I was determined to check a few of his suggestions off my list.  Later, I met back up with my parents for some more eating + drinks by the river.  My parents ordered a bottle of wine and ended up giving the rest of it to the people at the table next to us, who had *just* finished taking the Illinois bar.  I explained that that will be me in a year and one responded “Oh god, California is THREE DAYS.”  Yupppp.

On Thursday, we left the Brownstone, headed out to one last foodie pit-stop in the West Loop, and made our way to Midway.

It was a fantastic trip, and we tasted some delicious food.  Here’s a quick break-down of my fav eats:

IMG_43421. Revolution Anti-Hero IPA (Chicago, Illinois).  Nice and hoppy. Read: Loooooove.

2. Uno’s Pizza. I later learned this is my friend AK’s favorite pizza place in Chicago.  I asked a few locals what their favorite pizza joint was, and this was always at the top of the list.  It did not disappoint.

3. Raspberry Guacamole at Rick Bayless’ Frontera Grill.  This was one of my very favorite things.  It was essentially guac with added raspberries.  It sounded weird at first (my dad was a little shifty-eyed when I suggested it) but the flavors blended together perfectly.  I need to recreate this.  We also tried an out-of-this-world mole tamale and the ceviche was perfect.

4. Intelligentsia Coffee.  This was high up on Greg’s list of recommendations.  Intelligentsia is all over LA, but I had no idea it  originated in Chicago.  In my mind, it’s LA’s answer to SF’s Blue Bottle or Portland’s Stumptown Coffee roasters.  I got a “Summer Solstice” blend to take with me to Millennium Park.  Along with my coffee, I took another of Greg’s suggestions and hit up Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine Bar for a sandwich.  I asked the guy behind the counter what their signature sandwich is and promptly ordered the “Blue Pig ‘n’ Fig” which consisted of serrano ham, figs, arugula, and blue cheese. So good.

5. Churros con chocolate at Rick Bayless’ Xoco.  Next door to Frontera Grill is a smaller Rick Bayless place called Xoco – so obviously we had to go back for dessert.  My churros con chocolate were pretty delicious – but so were my mom’s dulce de leche enchilada and my dad’s ice cream. Nom.

6.  Lou Malnati’s Pizza.  We went back here a second time after the rehearsal dinner and ordered the “chicago classic” which had sausage, was super cheesy, and had a delicious sauce.  I’m not really sure which I liked better – Lou Malnati’s or Uno’s, but I think this dish might have won.

7. Little Goat Bread.  The last place I checked off Greg’s list was Little Goat Bread.  He’d reminded me Stephanie Izard, a past winner of Top Chef, has a James Bead-winning restaurant, The Girl and the Goat, in Chicago.  She also has a small diner (Little Goat Diner) and an even smaller sandwich place called Little Goat Bread.   I had an insanely delectable turkey sandwich, and then went back and grabbed a lemon and chocolate scone and a triple chocolate cookie for my parents.  All were amazing.  We ranked that meal the highlight of the trip.

I was sad to end such a great vacation – but enjoyed my travel classic of ginger ale on the airplane, and powered my way through a new book, aptly about Chicago. (I’m reading The Devil in the White City.)


Alright…let me hear your favorite Chicago places!

lately in los angeles.

14 Jul

Howdy. I have had a busy week and have some fun things to share with y’all. (Not sure where this urge to speak like I’m southern came from. I’ll blame it on Armita – who is from Austin).

In the world of the Criminal Court where I work, things have been rolling along. We had a jury trial for a meth possession charge which, to everyone’s surprise, came back not-guilty. The evidence was pretty much that a cop stopped the driver and found meth in his lap. Interesting stuff. We also had a bench trial yesterday, where the judge determined that the defendant was not-guilty by reason of insanity at the time of the commission of the crime.

In other news, check out all the awesome products that influenster sent me to test! I can’t wait to dig into these products and review ’em.

my voxbox!

Included in my Voxbox:

Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration Lotion Sunscreen
Sally Hansen Magnetic Nail Color
Always Tampax Radiant
Quaker Soft Baked Bars
Sally Hansen Nails and Cuticles Hand Creme

I’m probably the most excited to try the Quaker Soft Baked Bars (#foodieproblems) so keep an eye out for review in the future (although Influenster provided these items free for me to review, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own).

Here’s a few other highlights from my week:

On Wednesday, some of the usual suspects and I gathered at Armita’s apartment for a little dinner and movie action. This is a snapshot of the epic feast she prepared – a whole chicken and tons of veggies.

We also continued our Wes Anderson education by watching The Royal Tenenbaums. I loved it – it’s super quirky and bizarre, but the writing and acting are top-notch.

Are you a Wes Anderson fan? 

On Thursday, my co-externs and I had lunch at the LA Farmer’s Market (our usual weekly tradition). After enjoying some mediterranean food, we went to the observation deck on the 27th floor of LA City Hall to check out the views of downtown.

The weather the last few days has been NUTS here – more monsoon like than anything else. We’ve had hot, muggy, wet days with RAIN! It’s July in Southern California. I have two thoughts on this: 1. Global Warming is real. 2. If I wanted to live in Florida’s climate, I would move there. Regardless, these photos illustrate that weather – muggy not smoggy.

You can see the LA Times (foreground, center, with red roof).

I love these subtly inspiring quotes on the observation deck floor: “The city came into being to preserve life, it exists for the good life.”

“With written laws, the humblest in the state is sure of equal justice with the great.” 

We were stunned by how gorgeous the interior of the building was.

And I nearly fell over when I saw that the torch from the 1984 Olympics is in this building! Who knew! Literally a hidden gem in this city.

The rest of my night included a try-out for a Loyola Moot Court team. My fingers are crossed for this one – I’ll reveal more details if I get it, but I don’t want to jinx myself.

And finally, in other element of random-ness, my good friend from my sorority days, Amy, was in Madrid last weekend. I talked to her before her trip, told her my must-dos, and when she asked if there was anything she could get for me while I was over there, my reply was obviously “a photo of you at 100 Montaditos.”

amy con su tinto de verano y su montadito favorito – el de chorizo y guacamole!

If you’re heading to a 100 Montaditos, send me a photo. It’s definitely blog-worthy 🙂

I have another post coming about my fun-filled Friday the 13th. In the meantime, happy Weekend, everyone. Answer one of these, would ya?

Thoughts on The Royal Tenenbaums?  

Are you an Olympics/Olympics memorabilia nerd? 

I remember collecting those fake coins that came in cereal boxes for the 1996 games, and when I was in Barcelona I was obsessed with the Olympic stadium.

the other venice.

27 Jul

Going along with the theme of playing tourist in LA last week, my Dad and I also made a pit-stop in wacky Venice Beach. No, not the Venice whose city is flooding in Italy. Funky, touristy, beach-adjacent Venice.

venetian canals.

not this venice.

It had been years since I’d last been to Venice – which is strange considering I’ve spent a lot more time in neighboring Santa Monica. My Dad had the day off and I wanted to check out a mural my brother talked about – so we headed to Venice.

so-cal's venentian canals.

garlic rolls at C&O Trattoria.

We checked out the murals – all of them appear to be done by one (very talented) artist, R. Cronk. I think it’s cool that street art is incorporated into and sets the vibe of the city!

Venice Reconstituted, 1989, R. Cronk

R. Cronk, self portrait - detail from Venice Beach, 1990

Homage to A Starry Night, 1990

Venice Chorus Line, R. Cronk

We walked around and took in the craziness of the tourist scene: the numerous marijuana “doctors” and eager patients, street performers, weightlifters at Muscle Beach, and of course, people from all walks of life. It was sort of nuts – but if you’re new to LA I can definitely see why it was so appealing. Before we left, I had one final mission.

look carefully...

I’d heard rumors that there was a Space Invader along Ocean Front Walk, so I scanned the area and narrowed in on where I thought it was located. And, lo and behold, there it was, incorporated into the mosaics of the public restroom. Winning!

(damaged) Space Invader in Venice!

So happy I was able to see that – Space Invader is probably my favorite street artist. Overall, Venice was a fun day-trip for my Dad and me – it’s undoubtedly different than that other Venice, but epic in its own right.

Quirky question: Has anyone else visited a city that has a European counterpart? Paris, Texas or anything like that? How did it compare?

gaudí in los angeles?

25 Jul

Last week, my Dad and I did something we’ve wanted to do for a long time – we drove deep into Los Angeles to see the Watts Towers. They’re pretty awesome.

The towers consist of 17 inter-connected structures made by one man: Italian immigrant Simon Rodia, over 33 years (1921-1954). The towers are made with steel pipes and rods, and decorated with bits of tiles, porcelain, and found glass. Some of the glass is from recognizable soda bottles from the era – I spotted many green Canada Dry bottles.

The structures have drawn comparison to Antoní Gaudí’s work in Barcelona – and yes, this is one of (if not the main) reason for me wanting to see the Watts Towers. While the styles are different, there are definite similarities.

Gaudí's La Sagrada Familia

mosaics at Gaudí's Park Guell

Park Guell.

Do you notice the similarities? Or I am so Barcelona-obsessed that I’m making this up?

The Watts Towers were pretty cool – although not as tall as I thought they would be initially.

new obsession: instagram on the iPhone.

My Dad and I were happy to check this off our LA bucket list – it’s cool something like this exists and has been preserved. It was a trek out to Watts, but worth it 🙂

What’s your favorite example of street or outdoor art? 

statements on state street.

18 Jul

santa barbara museum of art.

Last Saturday, my mom and I spent the afternoon on Santa Barbara’s uber-charming State Street – our first stop was Santa Barbara’s Museum of Art. We’d never been before and were overwhelmed by how much we loved the collections – even though it was a relatively small one! The visting collection is “Van Gogh to Munch” through August 28th – and it featured some pretty stunning works by many big-name impressionists. That wasn’t the only cool collection though – in the other rooms I spotted many of my favorite artists.

Honey is Sweeter than Blood, Salvador Dalí, 1941

I’ve had a fascination with Dalí since I went to Madrid’s Reina Sofia museum for the first time in 2009, and again when I checked out the Dalí museum in Figueres, Catalunya, Spain. So glad this little museum in SB had something of his! I love how quirky and wacky Dalí is – and how is technique is so uniquely his.

Pont St. Michel, 1901 (Matisse)

I loved the colors in this work by Matisse.

Blow Up, 2007, Ori Gersht

The Ori Gersht exhibit (through September 4th) was cool and unique. It’s cool to see where modern art is at currently – and this flower explosion was so innovative technique-wise. It’s hard to believe this was basically a photograph!

Joan Miró work, part of the "Drawn to Modernism" collection.

Like Dalí, I developed a Miró fascination when I first saw his works in Madrid’s Reina Sofia museum, and then again when I saw more of his stuff scattered throughout the city of Barcelona (like his mosaics at the BCN airportthe statue at the Tarragona metro stop, and the walk-over piece on Las Ramblas). Miró is all over Catalunya – you can spot more of his stuff in Mallorca (featured in this week’s NYT article) and there’s a whole museum devoted to him in Barcelona. Again, I was so happy to spot this piece so close to home!

a cool Picasso. love.

The Frugal Repast, 1904, Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso is my favorite artist – and there were more than just these two pieces here! I loved the whimsy of the first piece, and I had learned about the second one during a course I took on Contemporary Art in Barcelona – and it focuses on Picasso’s fascination with the under-belly of society at this time. My obsession with Picasso came to fruition recently during my visit to Barcelona’s Picasso museum.

After checking out the museum, my mom and I headed across the street to our favorite restaurant in Santa Barbara – Arts & Letters Cafe – an adorable café with seating on the patio of an art gallery. The last time I went I was beyond impressed by their Portabello mushroom sandwich – so this time I was stoked to see what else A&L had up their sleeve!

bread + olive oil with cucumber water at Arts & Letters.

tyler salad. grilled chicken breast, romaine lettuce, bacon, blue cheese, avocado, and tomato with café vinaigrette.

This place is incredible. If you’re EVER in Santa Barbara, you need to go here! (My mom’s crab cake sandwich and pumpkin soup was equally incredible). We shopped a bit on State St. and popped into Starbucks before heading home! I lived dangerously and took my friend Amanda’s suggestion to try the new “Very Berry Hibiscus” refresher. I’m a Starbucks supporter – but normally choose coffee (and caffeine). I mean, why not? Last summer I got into their iced tea lemonades, if for no other reason than ordering a “Green Tea Lemonade” forces the barista to write “GTL” on the cup. Fist pump!  This refresher was good, but I’ll probably stick to drinks with more caffeine in the future – but it was definitely refreshing and the real fruit was a good touch.

my very berry hibiscus refresher, my mom's iced coffee, and our cute cupcake box.

We zipped home along the 101 quickly…thank you, Carmageddon!

view from the ride home.

What’s everyone’s favorite thing to do in Santa Barbara? Orrrrr what’s your favorite art museum?? 

barcelona, revisited.

20 Jun

It’s no secret that I’m obsessed with Barcelona. I am just a few pegs down on the obsession scale from a full-scale MTV documentary “True Life: I’m Obsessed with a Far Away Place” being made about me. In fact, that’s what my friend Kathleen and I named our room in our sorority senior year – but she was obsessed with Jackson Hole, Wyoming for skiing reasons I will never understand. But, I digress. When my aunt proposed an AVE (high-speed train) trip to Barcelona for two nights, I jumped at the proposition.

Having visited Barcelona in April, I had done my requisite first trip back since being abroad and had hit up some of my all-time favorite places: La Rita, La Oveja Negra, Park Guell and La Sagrada Familia, and, of course, Opium Mar nightclub. My goal this time was different – I wanted to show my aunt (a Barcelona first-timer!) my favorite places, but also make sure I hit up something that was new to me. Of course both of those goals were accomplished easily, and the trip was both relaxing and jam-packed with sight seeing.

We arrived on Friday around 3 pm at the train station, Sants Estació, and literally walked across the street to the hotel my aunt had booked, AC Sants. We re-grouped quickly and took the metro to Plaça Catalunya, where the first item on our list of to-dos was walking Las Ramblas. Plaça Catalunya had vestiges of the 15-M movement: dreadlocked catalanes and protest signs filled the normally bare plaza. We checked out the street performers, popped into La Boqueria, and eventually made our way to the Port and Barceloneta beaches.

tent city.

After a ton of walking, we needed a break so we went to a rooftop bar I’d heard about through a blog I follow, Anywhere there’s an Airport. It’s located at Ramblas, 109 and is the bar on the roof of Hotel 1898. The views were amazing, and a rare view of Barcelona from the city center itself, as opposed to a panoramic view from the northern points of the city. We each sipped a glass of cava (bomb) and took in the views of the trees of Las Ramblas, the Barcelona Cathedral, the Iglesia de Santa Maria del Mar, and the faint view of the ocean. I would definitely recommend this place for a quiet break in the midst of the touristy center of Las Ramblas, and I was so happy to discover a charming new place to send people to in my fav city! (Tip: there weren’t really signs for the bar, but take the elevator or stairs to the 7th floor, and you will be on the rooftop. Also, prices for cocktails were pretty steep, so check out a menu before you commit to that mojito).

cava + nuts + bcn.

rooftop of H1898

loving my city. 🙂

Next on the sight seeing agenda was a quick walk over to La Sagrada Familia, Antoní Gaudí’s famous church in the L’Eixample region of the city. We went around 7:30 at night, which was the perfect time to avoid tourists and get as many photos as we could. It’s amazing to me how every time I see it, it looks a little bit different – and this is one thing about Barcelona that separates it from every other city. Gaudí started his magnum opus in 1926, and we’ll be lucky if it’s finished entirely by 2026. It’s epic. If you haven’t been to Barcelona, do me the very least and rent Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Ok, thanks.

the nativity facade.

Friday’s dinner was another favorite: La Rita. We shared chicken with apple and cheese sauce, duck magret with fig sauce, and an appetizer I’d had before of pasta and green salad with a walnut pesto sauce. The show stopper, however, was dessert: slices of almond ice cream with Catalan custard on top (a version of crème Brule), doused in hot chocolate sauce. Perfection. After dinner, we metro’d back to the hotel and called it a night.

i wasn't happy this was taken at the time.

Our first stop Saturday was Gaudí’s other main Barcelona attraction: Park Guell. Originally designed as a housing development similar to some he’d seen in England, that idea was eventually scrapped and is now a park with incredible views of the city. Gaudí was inspired by nature – and that shows through in his parabolic columns, wave-like walk-ways, and use of mosaics everywhere. I was glad to hit up this obsession again on this trip to BCN. We spent a large portion of the afternoon just walking through the city: though the Gracia and El Raval districts, and back along Las Ramblas.

park guell.

catch a wave?

barcelona cathedral.

cat statue in El Raval.

We stopped for lunch at my favorite kebab place: Divan, C/ Bonsuces 8 (remember, the owner who looks like George Clooney if you squint really hard and happen to be drinking an Estrella?). My aunt loved it (phew) and we were so full we literally skipped dinner.

a day's worth of calories.

After the kebab-fest, we meandered our way to the Museu Picasso. I’d gone here once before with ISA in February 2009, but wanted to check it out again since Picasso is (most likely) my favorite artist…I’m hesitant to commit, hah! The museum was probably the highlight of the entire trip for me: I was able to see some works of his that I’d fallen in love with previously, like these:

Picasso's Barcolenta Beach (done at age 15 in 1896)

"Science and Charity" - 1897

but was also entranced by an exhibition I hadn’t remembered seeing previously. Picasso painted a series of paintings in 1957 based on and inspired by Velazquez’s “Las Meninas.” I can go on at length about how awesome this exhibit was – so don’t worry, I plan to. It was totally up my alley, so I bought a few postcards before we left.

We walked by the Arc de Triomf, through the Parc de la Ciutadella, along the port, and then I suggested a stop at CDLC: Capre Diem Longe Club, for a jarra of the sangria de cava. My aunt realized she loves two new drinks: sangria and cava! This was clearly a must for us. We sat along the beach, sipped our (hardly alcoholic) drinks, reflected on our trip, and people watched – especially comical was the bachelorette party for a woman wearing a leopard print bikini, mask and flippers, and a curly blonde wig). We got back on the metro and luxuriated at the AC Sants before taking a 10 am AVE train back to Madrid on Sunday.

sangria de cava at CDLC.

seize the day.

bachelor/bachelorette party inter-mingling.

Have you ever been to Barcelona? What should I add to my list for “new things” to do there on my (inevitable) next trip there?

such great heights.

13 Jun

The rest of my weekend proved to be pretty fun – and I checked off a few more fun things on my “Madrid Bucket List” that I had been wanting to do for awhile. The first was a botellón (pre-party) outside in the Templo de Debod for a friend’s birthday.You don’t have to ask me twice to drink (beer) outside, next to Egyptian ruins overlooking Casa de Campo and the Royal Palace. Literally kicking myself for not going here every weekend. The night progressed to a club I had never been to either, called Morocco, which was pretty fun as well!


templo de debod at night.

Sunday morning, I met my Uncle at his hotel and after a quick stop at Starbucks to fuel me after an unintentionally late night, we headed over to Parque del Oeste to take the 11 minute-journey over Northwestern Madrid via Teleférico. We got great views of the city and fun, amusement park-like experience. Here’s what we saw:


waiting our turn.


Manzanares River and the Cathedral in the background.


Parque de Atracciones and the Serengeti-like terrain.


view from the top.


my Uncle Casey on our teleférico journey.

After the ride, we had an EXQUISITE lunch at Parrilla de María, near Metro Callao. We had delicious red pepper and anchovies to start, and my entree was perhaps my favorite thing I’ve had in Madrid to date: black ravioli stuffed with seafood in a hollandaise cream sauce. I had my camera with me but it was gone before I thought to snap a picture.

We also saw Midnight in Paris  last night – I loved the shots of Paris and appreciated the gimmicky set up of the plot, but I just sort of felt like the gimmick didn’t really amount to much and that it sort of fell flat, but my Uncle loved it. I’m thinking that I didn’t have enough 1920s literature knowledge to get all of the “in” jokes – Vicky Cristina Barcelona gets the win in that Paris v. Barcelona show-down at least.


I wish I loved the movie as much as I love the poster...

Has anyone else seen Midnight in Paris? Thoughts?