CFA’s Favorite NW Suburban Coffee Spots

20170604_120023

The thing about coffee is that there is hardly any breathing room between Starbucks and the closest Dunkin. Shoot, there’s hardly enough breathing room between Starbucks and the next Starbucks! Same goes for Dunkin. And I’ll admit – I have the app for both. Because I’m a sucker for racking up rewards.

But I’d say in the past 2 years, I’ve learned to stop pulling into the convenient drive thrus and pay attention to the quality of the coffee. Quick shout out to my cousin, who happens to be a contributor on atribecalledepicurious – he graciously donated a Moka pot to me, and it fueled my obsession. But more on the world of homemade coffee & caffeine variations another time.

I’m not about to invite you all into my home just yet. We’re not cool like that. I can’t let you see how “human” I truly am. For now, just believe me when I say my kids do not leave their toys ANYWHERE that isn’t a restricted play area, my laundry is always done & folded & put away, and we only use our finest non-plastic china to serve homemade, organic breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I mean, you don’t know me, so you have to just take my word for it. I swear.

Continue reading “CFA’s Favorite NW Suburban Coffee Spots”

Musings on the Getty Center and Museums in General,

Hello, everyone! Jaja the forever tourist is here again!  Today, I wanna share with you guys one of my favorite places to explore in the city, the Getty Center.

A quick history: The Getty Center is one of two campuses of the Getty Museum. The Center is located in Brentwood, Los Angeles, while the Getty Villa is in the neighborhood of Pacific Palisades. The art collection was started by Jean Paul Getty in his home in Palisades. As the collection grew, he added a wing to his home which became the museum area, displaying his extensive collection. As the collection grew in the now-dubbed Getty Villa, he extended his museum by building another campus. The Villa focuses more on the arts and culture of Greece, Rome, and Etruria, while the Center houses collections from pre-20th-century European paintings, drawings, illuminated manuscripts, sculpture, and decorative arts; and 19th- and 20th-century American, Asian, and European photographs.

2017_04_09_00_The_Getty_Center (1)

Tourist guide: It is free to get in both museums, but you do need to pay a parking fee. But here’s the good thing: If you want to visit both museums in one day, just keep your parking ticket as it is valid for both museums on a same-day visit. That’s a $15 parking ticket you pay once for a two-museum visit. On Saturdays, the Center closes later as well, so if you don’t want to rush from one place to another, I suggest visiting the Villa first, and then drive on over to the Center.

PS: Audio tours are free, and they loan you the listening device AND the headphones. Now, I’m sure they clean their headphones, but if you’re a tad germophobic like me, feel free to bring your own headset.

 

Now, I’ve been to the Center a handful of times, and to the Villa zero times. That’s something that needs to be changed. Haha. The reason why I haven’t visited the very beautiful Villa is because I want to view all the collections at the Center. Some exhibits do change which makes multiple trips reasonable.

Once you get out of the parking structure, a tram takes you to the top of the hill where the magnificent structure of the Getty Museum is located. Whenever I step out of that tram, the view never fails to take my breath away. Right in front of the building, you have a wide open area that lets you take in the view from atop that hill. Overlooking the terrace is the valley, the houses and the rolling hills. The facade of the building is simple yet magnanimous. Clear lines, white finish, and a spacious staircase that leads you at the front door. Even before you enter the Center, you are greeted by marvelous sculptures.

2017_04_09_00_The_Getty_Center (7)

To the right of the front door is the audio tour desk. All you have to do is leave a form of identification with them and they will hand you your free audio tour listening device. I highly recommend this audio tour. There is no set tour you have to follow, you just go to whatever exhibit you want to check out and enter the number you see next to the exhibit piece into the listening device.

Oh, and if you are visiting with children and have a lot of stuff, took public transportation, or just have a lot of belongings with you, don’t let that hinder you from exploring the Center comfortably. To the left of the open-air lobby, you can find a check-in counter for your coats, bags, etc.

2017_04_09_00_The_Getty_Center (15)2017_04_09_00_The_Getty_Center (21)

Whenever I visit the Center, I have a little pattern that I follow. Different exhibits are placed in different buildings, a couple are connected to each other by hallways and stairs. I work my way from the exhibits right out front and wok my way back (I follow the map they give out in front). And then I take a break out in the courtyard, have a snack, a drink, get some fresh air, and then resume my tour. I have NEVER completed the exhibits in one day, hence the multiple visits.

When I feel like I’ve satisfied my museum craving, I walk around the expansive and beautiful garden of the Center. After all that, I usually find a shaded area in their grassy area and join the other visitors just chilling on the grass, laying out, doing their think out in the Center garden. Yes, the garden is open to the visitors, even if they visit the Center specifically just to have a picnic there. Outside in the courtyard/garden, you can marvel at the impressive architecture of the Center. Not only that, it offers a wonderful view of the city. I would take this time to just muse on the art pieces that I’ve seen that day. Sometimes, I’d bring my journal or a book with me and just chill the rest of my visit there.

2017_04_09_00_The_Getty_Center (16)2017_04_09_00_The_Getty_Center (49)

I’m one of those people that cherish my solitude from time to time. I’m also part of that group who lavishes on alone time in museums. Whenever I go by myself, I really REALLY take my time and check out each art piece. I stand there and admire the art works, ponder on what the artist had in mind, how it makes me feel, what the impact is in today’s society. It’s an experience of the mind and soul that I feel like I cannot undertake if I’m with another person who does not see museums the way that I do. But hey, don’t get me wrong. I enjoy visiting museums with friends because it is also a shared experience. You and your companions get to share your views with each other, discuss about the art work, and simply just share that experience with each other.

2017_04_09_00_The_Getty_Center (55)

x,
Jaja (IG:@theforevertourist)

Good morning from Newport Beach! [VIDEO at end of post]

There are a handful of things I cherish and hold so close to my heart. One of those things is my constant need for alone time. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and friends (that includes my cat Max). I love going out and doing things with the people I hold dear. But I get so caught up in my head and my thoughts that I have this constant need to have some alone time.

IMG_6716

The best place for me to get that solitude is by going to the beach.. right before sunrise. I love both sunset and sunrise but they give me different kinds of peace of mind and calm.. if that even makes sense. My go-to sanctuary is Newport Beach. It’s a small strip of beach in the Balboa peninsula, and the area has a small community surrounding it, which makes it perfect because it doesn’t get as crowded as the more touristy destinations like Santa Monica, Venice, etc.

I love that beach so much, even though it’s quite a drive from home. But in the morning? It’s so quiet and homey. As soon as I get there, I go buy my donut and coffee at Seaside Donuts, a tradition I’ve set for myself. And then I go sit at “my bench” and set up my camera, my book, and then I get comfortable while I wait for the sun to rise.

There are times when it’s too cloudy that you won’t see the actual sun go up. But just being in that place, in that time, warms my heart.

IMG_6713IMG_6756

As I walk around the pier and then down to the shoe, you see people greeting each other – most likely neighbors who do the same routine every morning. Most weekends, you’ll find a long line coming out from Dory Fishing Fleet Market. People flock there even before dawn breaks to catch the freshest seafood for that weekend. You also get your community of surfers, starting their days by catching some waves.

IMG_6728IMG_6729IMG_6758IMG_6784

I stay for maybe 3 or 4 hours, depending on how fast it gets crowded or warm. You might think, “Well that’s quite some time to kill huh.” I only go there when I have no plans for the day. I’m not a big fan of rushing, that’s why I always plan my day accordingly.

On this particular day, I noticed a group of people doing some huge and beautiful sand art. The artists are called Low Tide Aliens (IG: @lowtidealiens), and it look like a fun activity they were having. They had kids and other family members and friends helping them out. Check out their Instagram account to have their beautiful sand art take your breath away!

IMG_6718IMG_6719IMG_6788

I’ve visited Newport Beach more times than I can remember, from every “season” California can offer. I love the sense of community in that place, I love the peace and quiet it brings. I love that it doesn’t get too crowded, and I especially love that it’s open so early in the morning. It doesn’t matter if I wanna go there and catch up with a friend, or I want to de-stress my mind and my soul. This piece of the world will always be my mind’s sanctuary.

I wanna share one this video I made in Newport Beach back in December of 2015. I remember I had an 11hr work day the night before ( I think I came home 2am) and I was restless and tired from all the emotional and mental stress from my old job. I knew I just had to go to the beach that morning. I shot a time lapse video of the sunrise, and while I was sitting there, Ed Sheeran’s Lego House popped into my mind. So as soon as I got home, I stitched together the videos I shot while listening to the song. Here it is, guys. It’s not much, but the visuals pretty much reflected how I was feeling that day.

 

 

 

 

Let’s talk about life.. and that Drake wall in LA

Hello, everyone! Jaja here, your resident #theforevertourist. I apologize profusely for not being active on the blog as much as I should have. Life happened, and uh, yeah. I’m just so happy that I have my fellow bloggers keeping everything active here. Thanks so much, ladies!

Let’s talk about what I’ve been up to lately.

I started a new job just a couple of months after starting this blog, and that new job basically took over my life! It was a different “career path”, something I never expected to be in, so I wanted to focus my energy into learning more about that. Aside for my new job (that I love so much), I have started a couple of projects here and there as well. Mainly, a vlogging channel on YouTube. As soon as everything’s more streamlined, I’d be more than proud to share that with everyone. Also, when the year 2017 came to be, I only had one resolution, to improve my skills as a photographer. So that’s another thing that took up a lot of my time: going on adventures, taking photos, scheduling portrait sessions, going on photo walks, editing, editing, and EDITING. I was editing photos up the wazoo, y’all.

Anyway, I feel like I’m kind of caught up with most of my projects, so I decided to jump back in the blog. Like I said, I appreciate Maeven and Justine for keeping things running.

So, let’s go back to “touristing” yeah?

When I got my new job, I found myself a photography buddy. You’ll see him occasionally on my photos, coz I make him pose for me too when I shoot random portraits. Since then, we’ve been going on tons of photo walks, mainly exploring Los Angeles. Now I know I consider myself a Chicago gal (not a fan of the absurd summer temperatures here), but walking up and down the streets of Los Angeles gave me a new sense of adoration for the city. Just like that, I started falling in love with the City of Angels. There’s just so many things to do here, and hey, places to eat as well. The best way to see the city is to walk of course.

When my friend GN asked if I wanted to check out “the Drake wall” I gave him a weird look. I have not heard of such a spot downtown.

And then he showed me some photos.

Basically, it’s the Weller Court hallway in Little Tokyo in DTLA. It’s obviously much cooler to see it at night. The hallway is lighted up in neon pink/white/purple. Oh and the lights move too. Of course, I found the place very interesting. It’s literally just a hallway. It takes you from the street to the inside of the court. But of course everybody can see the resemblance of the background from Drake’s Hotline Bling video, which begs the question “How many people actually tried to recreate the video after seeing this hallway?”

IMG_7832

Of course, we didn’t just drive through all that LA rush hour traffic just to take photos of this hallway. We walked a couple blocks down to where the food is! Well actually, we just stopped by Mikawaya, a dessert place in Little Tokyo that carries tons of mochi ice cream flavors. HEAVEN!!

IMG_7882IMG_7880IMG_7879

It was getting late so we headed back to the car. But not before trying some night photography on the street as well. We practiced with moving lights by taking photos of the cars speeding past and by writing using a pen light. I thought it was a fail on my part. I should already know how to do this. But NOPE. I mean, we tried. I felt like my photography skills regressed that night. Hence, the practice and practice and practice.

Well, that’s it for now. I have a few more photo walks to upload and talk about, and I can’t wait to share it with everybody. If you’ve been to any of the places I’ve visited, or you’re planning to go, let me know what you guys think! Have a nice rest of the week everyone!

xo,
Jaja, the forever tourist

Meal Prep Monday: Making Healthy Meals With Less Effort 

“The challenge of what to recommend to someone who doesn’t have the space to cook…”

As a pharmacist, I speak to a lot of different people on a daily basis. On a consult, when discussing wellness, I sometimes hear, “Well, I don’t really cook very well.”  Usually, they are being modest, but once I was told, “No, really, I don’t cook very well – the fire department was called when I tried boiling water!”  So then comes the challenge as to what to recommend to someone who doesn’t cook, or doesn’t have the space to cook a healthy meal.

Luckily, there are stores that offer both salad and hot bars.  You can choose from a variety of salads, vegetables and fruits for side dishes.  Some places may offer a deal for a main entrée with two sides for a flat price.

If you are really lucky, after choosing your protein (ie beef, chicken pork or fish) at the meat counter, the store will also flavor and grill the meat for you for no charge.  

For me I had chosen a marinated skirt steak that I plan to cook just under the temperature I usually get.  My thought is, when this gets reheated, it will be cooked to the temperature that I like without over cooking it.  

For example, if you like your steak cooked to medium, ask them to cook it medium rare.  That way when it is re-heated and done, it turns out being medium to medium well.  Just be sure to take it straight home and not let it sit out too long.
If your store does not have a grill, no need to worry. Next to the deli, a lot of places offer hot items such as meat loaf or rotisserie chicken. 

If you are okay with using a microwave, a lot of the frozen vegetables are able to be steamed in the bag.  There are even some fresh produce that are pre-cleaned and trimmed that can also be steamed in the microwave or roasted in the oven.  

I decided to have steamed green beans as my side.

When you are done shopping and bring everything home, you can divide everything up in containers for the week.

What is so great about this is taking care of groceries and your meals in one trip, and in less time!

I hope that you had found this helpful & have a great week!
— Maeven

Supper Club Saturday

“Whenever I eat here, I feel like I was at my friends Mom or Grandma’s house…”

Greek Islands

200 South Halsted

Chicago, IL

 

I originally started coming here when I was at UIC (that’s the University of Illinois at Chicago for those who aren’t local).   Whenever I ate there, I felt like I was at someone’s house eating something their Grandmother just made.  The food was rich and full of flavor, and everything was so fresh.  From previous experience, after being in business for several years (or more), sometimes the taste changes (and sometimes not in a good way).  So now, the question is: “Will Greek Islands be the same?”

We started with the Saganaki.  Yes, its very cliché, but its one of the first things I tried from here, and it’s a classic.


Next, I created my own combo of moussaka and stuffed tomato.


Hubby had a combo of gyro and baked chicken.

After one bite of each, it was confirmed, a done deal, the last nail being hammered into the coffin…
After a taste of each dish, you can taste the freshness of the ingredients, I was still reminded of my friend’s Mother/Grandmother, so yes, this place still has it.

I also forgot that this place imports their olive oil straight from Greece (another explanation as to why everything is so good!)

Hopefully you will get to try for yourself!

Cheers!

–Maeven

EatPlayChicagoLA is NOW LIVE!!

Welcome, everybody! Thank you for stopping by and checking out EatPlayChicagoLA, a blog and social media collective about places to explore in the Chicago and Los Angeles area. We will also try to cover topics about lifestyle, travel, food, and everything in between – wherever we find ourselves to be. Please feel free to follow our little brainchild, and we hope that you enjoy our content!

Let’s meet the bloggers, shall we?Jaja1

Jaja2

 

Justine1Justine2

Maeven1Maeven2Maeven3

That’s all for now! Thank you again for taking the time to stop by and check out EatPlayChicagoLA. Stay tuned as we bring out more posts about what we are up to.
Follow us on Instagram at Twitter: @eatplaychicagola