Monday, December 28, 2015

Things That Made Me Smile: December

Monday, December 28, 2015
List things I'm thankful for, things I'm loving, things worth sharing...
  • Balsam Fir. Our tree isn't so potent this year, but our balsam fir candle is. It's a comforting scent.
  • Mushroom tree ornaments.
  • Biscotti for days. Usually I bring a big batch to Thanksgiving, and then they are all gone. This year, I've been eating one every so often out of the refrigerator. 
  • Singing in Icelandic.
  • Homemade raviolis with ricotta, lemon, and nutmeg inside for Christmas dinner.
  • Fancy candles. For Christmas, S and I eat gave each other a fancy candle. For him, an Old Fashioned Cocktail candle. For me, my first Dyptyque candle. There's a Diptyque shop up the block from us and I like going in there to smell the complex candles. The candle S got for me is made to smell like Russian leather, dark bark, mellow musks, and dried herbs.
  • Friends inviting us over for Christmas Eve dinner, drinks, and games. Friends visiting from out of state just in time to join us for Christmas Dinner, the first in our new home. Last minute visitors means that we didn't have to spend Christmas day as just us like I thought we would.
  • Christmas coffee with hints of vanilla, hazelnuts, and spices. 
  • Walking the dog and being surrounded by holiday decorations.
  • Extra time off for the holidays, spent at home, exploring our city, and sleeping in with Mordechai. 
  • Also, Mordechai's Instagram. Because who knew that there were so many other adorable greyhounds on Instagram?
  • Meeting a friend from Livejournal. 
  • Watching this family's vlog. Because I really love the honestly that they share about starting a family. It's isn't always easy, but it's always beautiful nonetheless. I've come to really look forward to the videos that they make. Also, it's inspired me to film more of Chicago and share a compilation of my favorite things here in winter. I'm not able to commit to daily, weekly, or even monthly videos, but I look forward to creating seasonal videos. Winter/spring/summer/fall.

Friday, December 25, 2015

My Heart's Returned to Sister Winter

Friday, December 25, 2015

This is our Christmas card that we sent to family and friends that S drew for us this year. Have a happy Christmas day to everyone! 

You can see last year's card here, and the year before that here.

Monday, December 21, 2015


Monday, December 21, 2015

There's nothing I love more than when friends visit or come over and make themselves right at home. I love when friends put their feet on the furniture, curl up in one of my couch blankets, or cuddle with Mort. Those are the same things that I do when home on my own. 

A friend entered our apartment and one of the first things he said was that the next time he comes to Chicago, he's definitely staying with us. Another friend was visiting and I had to work a lot that weekend. However, she made herself right at home, finding her way around the kitchen, making tea and doing dishes. A guest could totally leave all of their dirty dishes and I wouldn't care, but when a guest goes the extra mile and takes on their own daily chores without even asking, it feels like we're roommates instead of entertaining, and I'm so glad that my friends are that relaxed. It makes me so happy when friends and family feel at home in my home. 

I don't mean to boast. One thing that I strive for is hyggelig, and when friends are comfortable enough to make themselves at home, I feel like I've achieved it. A friend from the Netherlands visited us in Orlando and was telling us about hyggelig and how it doesn't translate. This website has a great definition of hyggelig, but our friend described it as a cozy and intimate atmosphere, with friends or family, around a fireplace or with some lit candles, a warm blanket, maybe some good food and drinks, relaxed conversation, and just a good time. All those things can be found going out, or at home, with friends, or family.

This year, because of the cost of moving, two visits that I've already taken back to Florida for weddings, and the uncertainty of time off with my new job, we will be spending Christmas in Chicago. We've been lucky that we've been able to drive home for holidays these past few years, because flying during peak holiday season is expensive. The last few years I've spent Thanksgiving with my dad, and Christmas with my mom. My dad's family makes Thanksgiving a whole-day affair with all of our family's Italian recipes like sausage bread, stuffed artichokes, spooned cornbread, and lots and lots and lots of red wine. I always make a big batch of biscotti for dessert. After a big meal, a slice of pie is too much for me. Instead, I go for a hot coffee plus my crunchy biscotti for dipping. Being born in NYC, watching the Macy's Day Parade always brings me home. For Christmas, my mom always makes challah bread French toast for breakfast, with mimosas now that we're adults! (Who said that Christmas isn't fun when you grow up?) My mom always has her favorite Christmas movie playing during the day, A Christmas Story. And for dinner, there's always our favorite indulgent recipes like baked mac and cheese (we add mustard powder and it takes it to another level of bliss), spinach torte, and if we're lucky, my mom will make her flan for dessert. 

This whole time with the move, I knew there would be days and nights that I would really miss my family and our traditions. Things have been very much busy here with getting to know my new job, getting to know our city, exploring with friends, meeting new people, work and social gatherings are endless! I've hardly had time to miss family and friends. But now, with holidays on the horizons, it's not the holidays that I miss; it's the people that make the holidays. I miss those people, and their traditions like red wine or flan and filling the day with the Macy's Day Parade and A Christmas Story. It's not the routine that makes a tradition, it's the people that follow them.

Cheers xo

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Currently // At Home in Winter

Thursday, December 17, 2015
wearing // this alpaca blanket from Minzuu. So soft and warm, perfect for our first Chicago winter at home. 
reading // Games of Thrones and comic books for him. Cookbooks and recipes for me. Also, loving this sweater that S found for $12 at a pop-up antique shop in Wicker Park. I'm not sure of the name of the place because it's only been open for two weekends since we've lived here. However, this sweater is perfect for both Thanksgiving day and Christmas day.
making // gourds and squash. Growing up, my mom would make acorn squash and even without any spices or herbs, it always smelled delicious. We'd eat it in fall and winter, and I always get nostalgic for it. 
cooking // family-favorite comfort foods. Spaghetti and meatballs is my go-to comfort food (after all, my father's side is Italian). A comforting recipe that I discovered with S is Coq Au Vin; it's so delicious, and pretty easy now that I've made it nearly 50 times. 
guilt // hallmark channel holiday movies ('tis the season!). Totally a guilty pleasure, and S can't stand when I watch them, but something about cheesy holiday movies really makes me comforted. 
mixing // for breakfast, I've been mixing in a spoonful of pumpkin to Mort's dog food. It's a nice little treat and changes things up for him.
enjoying // playing games. Since this winter will be colder outside [than we're used to] and a warm one spent inside, we're getting into playing games together, even while watching a holiday movie. I found a deck of cards from an event I once worked, as well as a can of jacks that I've had since I was a kid in New York. We've been playing Scrabble which is S's favorite, and I've been trying to get a crowd over so that we can play my favorite board game, Anti-Monopoly. Also, I backed the upcoming World's Fair 1983 board game on Kickstarter, which will be released in spring - I cannot wait! Because I was one of the backers, I was able to vote on specific exhibits from the real World's Fair in 1983 that will be made into playing cards for the game. It's Chicago history, events, and gaming rolled into one beautiful package.

drinking // beaujolais nouveau! This red harvest wine is really delicious this year!

listening // come on snake, let's rattle!

feeling // at home. Who knew that Chicago would be so welcoming? I feel so at home in such an incredibly short period of time. I'm in a routine at work and completely finished with training. Our apartment only has a few minor improvements we will make over the long winter. We've got our friends here that always make a point to include us in things. And we have our greyhound, Mordechai, and the Chicago greyhound community. Whether we need someone to watch Mort, or we want to go to a greyhound playdate, and our future looking into adopting a sister for Mort, the community is incredibly warm. I am so thankful for the people that love greyhounds as much as we do. Even with S out of town for his company's holiday party, I still feel so welcome and at home, even spending time alone here.

missing // family during the holidays.

I originally saw this currently feature on Joy Felicity Jane.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Our Fair City: Christkindlmarket Chicago

Thursday, December 10, 2015

While S's brother was visiting us in Chicago, we went to an annual event - the outdoor German Christmas market downtown. I was told by my new French friend that the Chicago Christmas Tree used to be inside of this Christkindlmarket. But this year was the first that they decided to put it in Millenium Park (where the bean is!).  I must say, I like it's new home. We visited the Christkindlmarket on one of it's busiest weekends (after Thanksgiving). While the market was crowded, the tree a few blocks away had its own crowd! I couldn't imagine the crowds trying to protect their newly purchased ornaments, keep their mulled wine from sloshing, while also battling the crowds of those there only to see the tree. 
There were stalls that sold handmade ornaments, some food vendors, and of course, a tent that poured hot mulled wine into a little boot souvenir. There was one vendor that sold ornate cuckoo clocks (S loves cuckoo clocks) as well as little wooden men, some with a tiny little pipe. So cute! 

We almost bought a pickle ornament - which is a German tradition! My mom already gave me a pickle ornament a few years ago (my grandfather is German) so we opted for a pictaresque mushroom instead. There were mushrooms with a little moss and dirt at the bottom of them - but for $30 a piece... I just might have to make one myself instead.

I'm finding it hard this year to be in the Christmas spirit. We have been working late or have had social arrangements a lot lately. At the office, I don't always listen to music, so I haven't even heard my usual dose of holiday music. Old favorites like Frank Sinatra's Christmas songs, She & Him's Christmas albums, and Sufjan Steven's Christmas albums normally do the trick. This time of year, I'm normally knitting to keep my hands warm, but northern heating systems are work-horses, so we keep toasty inside. The nights feel long because the sun goes down early during these winter months. I like to think that it's Chicago's way of showing off the holiday lights around the neighborhood. Coming home to the neighbor's fences draped in twinkling lights, green garlands, and red bows is just as warming as coming home to the crunchy fall leaves on the ground, like in fall. Even though the trees are bare, looking stark naked, the city is still beautiful with giant snowflake decorations on the street lamps and shop windows filled with shiny and suspended ornaments. There are only a two more weeks until Christmas, and I'm determined to feel the holiday spirit.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Weekend Recap: Christmas Decorating

Sunday, December 06, 2015

The day after Thanksgiving, I was too exhausted from cooking and cleaning to do any exploring. We had dreams of visiting a farm and chopping down our own Christmas tree, but I didn't even have the energy to drive for an hour. Instead, we smelled some expensive candles, got hot chocolate and jasmine tea to go, ventured to a nearby vendor, and bought the tallest tree we could find - from Wisconsin!

When we usually visit my grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins in South Florida for Thanksgiving, the whole family gets together to decorate my little cousin's tree. Being that I couldn't do that with them this year, we carried on our "Black Friday" tradition of avoid shopping and instead, we decorated for Christmas in our Chicago apartment. 

(Okay, maybe we didn't completely avoid shopping on Black Friday. We ordered a new computer online with one of those huge screens. But hey! We saved about $500 by ordering that day. Also - shout out to Max for helping me learn what I need in a computer in order to simultaneously edit photos and have at least twenty internet tabs open at the same time. I've been editing photos and writing blog posts all night with this new large screen and I must say... I think I'm done with the laptop life. Now that I have my own little office where I can work from home, blog as a hobby, and still see my dog laying on his bed in the living room, I've got everything I need.)

You'll notice our newest ornament, a bright red and white mushroom that we got at the Christkindlmarket (more on this event soon!). At one point, there was some Martha Stewart felt mushroom ornament DIY that I stumbled upon and S must have seen it over my shoulder. Ever since, we talk about a Christmas tree full of mushrooms. I like the idea of having an entire garland of little felt mushrooms, but the ornament above was too pretty to pass up, and it was a lovely way to remember the night. Since, we have found more mushroom ornaments from Ikea! Mushrooms must be trending. (Also, I did not see these in store, only online just now when searching for the mushroom ornaments link to share - but how cute are these bearded Santa ornaments?). While were at Ikea, we also stocked up on the crunchy ginger cookies that they sell. We like to eat them while watching Rare Exports, which we do every year. 

We spent the rest of the evening decorating the tree, drinking Beaujolais Nouveau wine (which is really good this year!), listening to Sufjan Stevens holiday albums, and watching my favorite holiday movie, The Family Stone. We've been saving a bottle of port that was a gift and we've wanted to save it for "our first winter in Chicago." We must have waited too long because it did not taste good. It was past it's prime. But, it doesn't reflect our feelings about Chicago or it's winter. I can't imagine moving here at any other time in our lives. It's been really great. Some would say that it's all come together

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Feeling Welcome in the City of Broad Shoulders

Thursday, December 03, 2015

We recently got brunch with friends in Logan Square at Revolution Brewing. I visit Revolution once a month for Evolution at Revolution (I'd like to do a post on this event separately. Just know that it's an awesome event - it's so great that I volunteer for it!), and every time it has great food and beer. This time, we got to try their brunch items. Paired with a beermosa (saison beer and orange juice!), their french toast as well as their biscuits and gravy were so good! Afterwards, we went "Small Business Saturday" shopping at a local art gallery. Then, we walked to the "Greeting from Chicago" mural.

Dinner at Pub Royale - easily my favorite restaurant that I've tried in Chicago so far. You can't beat palak paneer, lamb dumplings, rabbit pie, and a great beer selection. They have a gose beer (sour beers are my new favorite thing now) on draft with limeade in it and it is so refreshing. Also, they have two beautiful, white peacocks mounted on the walls. I tell S that one day, if he were to propose again, all he would have to give me is a white peacock on a pedestal. They are just so beautiful. In exchange, he says all I have to get him is one of those elaborate, hand-carved cuckoo clocks that has an entire village moving when the clocks strikes the hour. The bird comes out and chirps, the couples spin around, dancing on the balcony, the barmaid serves the beer, and the watermill turns. How dreamy!

We met up with new friends at a bar called Sportsman's Club. When our Uber dropped us off, we had no idea where the entrance was. There was no sign above the door, but there were beautiful, big framed windows. Once inside, it was cozy and warm, dimly lit, with checker boards etched into the tables. Of course, any bar or restaurant with mounted animals makes me feel like home. Also, there was a beautiful back patio with a chimney for a fire and market lights. Of course, it's already too cold to be out there, but my new friend said that with the big front windows, it's probably really gorgeous to be cozied up inside when it's snowing out. I completely agree.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Things That Made Me Smile: November

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

List things I'm thankful for, things I'm loving, things worth sharing...
  • •Beaujolais Nouveau - every year, I look forward to buying at least half a case of Beaujolais Nouveau on the third week of November. Sometime in college, during French classes, we learned of the harvest wine that the French look forward to. For American's it's timing is perfect for Thanksgiving. The fruity Gamay grape goes perfect with the sweet sides like cranberry sauce and sweet desserts like pecan pie. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday (being Italian and Brazilian - we have some amazing food) and picking up a bottle of French wine has added to the excitement. It's become my own personal tradition. And this year - Georges Duboeuf's harvest is one of the best!
  • Greyhound Alliance Fundraiser - when we found out that we were moving, we asked our Orlando greyhound group, Greyhound Pets of America Greater Orlando, for a contact in Chicago. Our amazing contact Joan, referred us to a group in Chicago called the Greyhound Alliance. We took Mort to multiple play dates that they arrange, and they have been so welcoming and sweet. The least that we can do is attend a fundraising event that they held downtown. The greyhound community is so close-knit and I feel so comforted to know that they are always there for us, and more importantly, for Mort.
  • •Speaking of Greyhound Alliance play dates! We don't have a backyard, so whenever we get the chance, we love to bring Mort to the dog beach in summer or the play dates that the Greyhound Alliance coordinates. Mort gets to run around with other greyhounds, and we get to chat with other greyhound lovers over coffee, doughnuts, and even wine!
  • •This quote... “October extinguished itself in a rush of howling winds and driving rain and November arrived, cold as frozen iron, with hard frosts every morning and icy drafts that bit at exposed hands and faces.” - J.K. Rowling. This has never been relevant until this winter in Chicago.
  • •I'm getting so good at reading my clients, their needs, and understanding their events that this month, I showed up to work wearing the exact same outfit as my client and her team. Black dress, black tights, wedge boots.
  • •This pin: "No one has ever become poor by giving." This is super relevant today - Giving Tuesday! Some non-profits that I love? The Field Museum of Natural History. WBEZ Chicago. Greyhound Pets of America Greater Orlando.
  • •New items. We've had to purchase things that we have not previously owned like a winter coat for Mort, a big shovel for snow when it covers my car, and a windshield scraper when it's icy out. Although these are all added expenses that one forgets to consider when moving, it's still thrilling to have a completely different environment. 
  • My first Chicago snow
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