Be Thankful

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Today I am thankful for very many things. In order of appearance in my day (not priorities, I swear!), there is coffee. 20171123_081702

I am thankful for this sustenance that allows me to carry on with my multi-faceted lifestyle. It’s been a crazy way of living, balancing work life, food life, and family life. If you know me personally (or even superficially via Instagram), you know calling me a coffee addict is an understatement. But trust me when I say this: you do NOT want to be with me on a day I haven’t had a cup of strong coffee before 9am. 

Whoops, let’s focus on positive thoughts. I’m thankful, furthermore, for the Chicago foodie community that I have grown closer to over the past year.

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I’ve been taking pictures of my food & writing restaurant reviews for over 10 years now, but it hasn’t been until recently that I started finding “my people”. The people who just get it, who don’t judge when I get excited about the visual appeal of a dish. We get criticized & ridiculed, often while we’re working (YES it IS work!),but with the support of my friends, we’re able to laugh it off.

Now, let’s get to the sensitive mushy stuff.

I’m thankful for my family – both immediate and extended. I’m a mother of two, a sister to one (-in law to 3), cousin to way too many. I try to spread myself out and give attention to everyone, but sometimes often I find that my priorities are mixed and I choose the superficial lifestyle over what’s real. To be honest, it’s because it’s easier. Or it’s because I’m too tired to make the efforts. But regardless of how much I know I’m sucking at this adulting gig, my family is always there for me. And the unconditional love goes way beyond my need for coffee, my need to take pictures, and definitely beyond my need to network (I’m horrible at that sometimes too so -meh-). Guys – I’m sorry to make you compare your life to mine, but my family is pretty darn amazing. Today and every day, I wake up (okay fine, and hunt for coffee first) and realize how lucky I am to have them.

My girls, first and foremost, are my everything.

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We go on adventures with almost all of the free time I have. Sometimes it’s as simple as a late night drive thru trip for some Steak & Shake Side-by-Sides. Other times, we make a day out of Chicago. Or Skokie (Hi Shake Shack.. sponsor me please. Or just build in Schaumburg). But no matter what we do or where we go, we’re making memories. And eating and taking pictures of what we’re eating but hey.. they’re my daughters after all 😉

And then there’s this guy.

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Today marks 10 years since the last first kiss I ever had. 10 years since my last “first date”. 10 years since I thought “Alright, maybe it’s okay to settle down and let one guy make me his priority for once” 10 years since I thought “This will be the only guy I crush on that has a fauxhawk.” (also the last time I ever thought that). We’ve been through a lot together, and I can’t imagine going through any of it with anyone else. He’s got my back and I’m lucky to have him too. As much as I roll my eyes at almost everything he says & does, I also love him more than I’ve ever loved anyone. But let’s be real here – he’s way lucky to have me too. Do you know how much random free food he’s gotten in the past year? The way to a man’s heart is bringing home a Chuy-changa “just because”. AND IT WASN’T EVEN LEFTOVERS – that’s real love there people.

Anyways, that’s enough for today. I made Mia a fortune teller/cootie catcher, and she’s growing very impatient that I’ve told her to “hold on” before playing for the 17th time (I’ve counted).

Hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving! I can’t wait to see what everyone’s dinner table spreads look like! I’ll be sharing ours on my Instagram story, so if you haven’t already, make sure you’re following along!

Family Fun at Frato’s!

Summer is officially over for my kids and their friends. And with the end of summer comes the end of planning play dates at water parks & outdoor playgrounds. Some days when trying to make plans, I give up because indoor activities can get either played out (indoor bounce “zones” only last so long before someone gets sick or hurt) or expensive. And then I still have to find places for them to EAT – and let’s face it. Kids can get picky. And picky eaters get cranky way too quickly for the parents to truly relax and enjoy their meal.

Enter our saving grace: Frato’s Pizza & Catering in Schaumburg.

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I used to think of Frato’s as just take-out/delivery pizza. Then one day I decided to take my family with me to just eat there (I’ll be honest: it’s so that I wouldn’t have to clean up after everyone. Which is A HUGE deal for a tired, over-worked mom). I realized this is a place I could make a regular outing.

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And what a PERFECT opportunity this past weekend. My 1st grader & her friends all went separate ways for school this year, so the parents and I wanted to meet up for an “end of the year” lunch. So we decided to take the risk of bringing not 1-2 kids, but 6 KIDS AND A BABY with us, 4 poor old souls (3 moms & 1 dad) and eat at Frato’s.

[Drool-worthy pictures after the jump!]

Continue reading “Family Fun at Frato’s!”

Wanderlust Wednesday: Washington, D.C. (Part 3)

We started off at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.  I felt that it is one of the many places to visit while in D.C.  The Holocaust was just an unspeakable and horrible period in the World’s history, yet it is also something that should be reflected and learned about so it is not repeated.

You may think that you know all there is about the Holocaust, but I learned some new things while at the museum – either that or I learned about it, forgot about it then re-learned it again.   For example, other than incarcerating Jews, the Germans also sent Jehovah’s Witnesses, political prisoners (aka anyone who spoke up against Hitler and the Nazis), scientists and homosexuals.  At one point, the amount of countries that were controlled by the Nazis were so far and vast, those trying to escape them, really had no where to go.  Then, once the war was over, because there was so much destruction, especially in the Allied countries, those that were able to return, couldn’t.

They did have stories that I did remember and/or read about.  They had a section on Anne Frank, about her life, when she was captured and when she died.  They also had a section on Auschwitz, how the prisoners were transported by freight cars in extreme conditions.  Then how they were divided up, first by gender, then whether they will continue at the camp undergoing hard labor, or if they will go to the gas chamber.

They also had a room that had written excerpts as well as recordings of those who had survived the Holocaust.  They described how they were brought to the camps, how their life was while living in the barracks, or how it was when they were rescued at the end of the war.  After seeing how everyone was taken, imprisoned and/or put to death, you can’t help but to feel awe for those who had lived through such horror, anger for those who had imprisoned them, and sadness for those who did not survive.

Now, I wish I could have taken more photos around the museum.  However, I also felt that this was such a somber and heavy topic, that I did not want to be snapping photos at every turn.   You can’t help but to feel affected in some way after that.

Next was the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.   Just like the name suggests, this museum chronicles how man got into the air and space by craft.

We saw the plane flown by the Wright Brothers!

The museum gave a nod to women pilots in America, too!

Some military planes and drones…

As well as space craft and satellites…

We even got on one of the simulator rides!

From there we headed towards the White House.  We were only able to take a picture from outside the gates.

Shortly after we returned home, they announced that they were no longer allowing people in that area anymore (good thing we went, then!)

Finally, our last stop was at the State Capitol.  We were able to get a tour after contacting our state representative, Tammy Duckworth.

For a big building, we weren’t allowed into a lot of it.  Even though there were some rooms there for the representatives, they really spend most of their time across the street in either the Rayburn House Office Building or in the Hart Senate Office Building.

By the time we were done with our tour, we were plenty tired!  We would be leaving early the next morning.   I did feel like we covered a lot of ground and we would love to come back!

How about you?  Have you been here as well?  What did you think?  Feel free to share in the comments below!

Until next time,

–Maeven

References:

https://www.ushmm.org/

https://airandspace.si.edu/

https://www.whitehouse.gov/

https://www.visitthecapitol.gov/

Wanderlust Wednesday: Washington D.C. (Part 1)

Though I have lived here all my life and traveled to a number of places, I still haven’t been to D.C. (what?!!)  So my family and I decided to remedy that and take a road trip to America’s Capital this past April.  It would be for an extended weekend (four to five days), and I knew that I wouldn’t even begin to scratch the surface on visiting everything DC had to offer.  However, we will make an effort to make a dent!

Pro Tip:  The White House, the Capital Building, the Pentagon, and the Supreme Court offer tours by staff or volunteers.  Some of them are arranged through your local Congress Representative or through the website.  When I looked into getting tours four months before our trip, there were none available (already booked?).  We did manage to get a tour of the Capital Building weeks before our trip after placing our names on standby with Tammy Duckworth’s office.  That being said, if you know for certain that you will be wanting to tour any of these places, look into them ASAP!

The Family on Our Fantastic Journey

We decided to drive there, which is about 12 hours one way.  Our first day, we drove halfway and stopped in Toledo, OH.  BTW, I really like the rest stops on the Ohio Turnpike over Indiana and Pennsylvania (at least on the route we took).

The next day, we completed the journey.  We did this because we had an AirBnB reservation – our FIRST AirBnB reservation ever – and we had to get the key from them OR the lockbox.  I didn’t want to chance having to get the key from them at a late hour.

Usually I am able to get a decent price on hotel rooms, but in the DC area, the hotel rooms were running at least $200/night.  I decided to try AirBnB for our trip.  For five days, for a 1BR apartment with parking, with taxes and cleaning charges, it was $550.

Anyway, we arrived in the area through Virginia.  We were still early for check-in, so we decided to stop at Arlington Cemetery first.   Some of the oldest resting places there date back to before the Civil War.

 

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View of the Washington Memorial from Arlington
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United States Air Force Memorial

 

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The Grave of Robert Peary, who was a US Navy Officer that made several expeditions to the North Pole.

 

View of the Pentagon from Arlington Cemetary

 

McClellan Gate – for Major General George B. McClellan

We then headed to our AirBnB to rest for the night.  We were in an area called Columbia Heights.  I noticed a couple of Greek (ie Fraternity/Sorority) houses on our drive up 11th Street.  I then found out we were near Howard University.  I did a quick Wiki search on them and found out this:  Howard University originally opened shortly after the Civil War, originally to be a theological seminary for African-American Clergymen.  Now, it offers a diverse array of undergraduate programs and graduate programs (ie Business,  Education, Law, Medicine, Nursing, etc).  Also, they had produced Fulbright Scholars, Rhodes Scholars, Truman Scholars, Pickering Fellows and a Marshall Scholar.  In 2015 it ranked in the top 75 in the Bloomberg Businessweek college rankings.  It also produces the most black doctorate recipients of any university.

In other words, there are a lot of smart people at Howard University!  Kudos!

We have only been in the area for a few hours and I’m already learning a lot!

For dinner, we ate at a nearby restaurant called “The Coupe” and it was recommended to us by our AirBnB hosts.

 

Grilled Hangar Steak

 

 

Mac and Cheese
Cuban Sandwich with House Made Chips

 

Getting back to our AirBnB, our apartment was spotless (thanks to the professional cleaning service they hire) and the hosts were very thorough and accessible.  If you are ever in the D.C. area, and don’t mind a short commute, look up Host Alper under “Cozy 1BD apt steps away from metro with parking.”

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Peary

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_University

http://www.thecoupedc.com/

https://www.airbnb.com

 

 

 

 

Wanderlust Wednesday: Morro Bay, CA

“Morro Bay is a great place to spend an extended weekend to relax and unwind…”

With the holidays here, we are either being visited by family or visiting family ourselves.  For this Thanksgiving, we went to visit family in California – mostly to help with house maintenance, but we did find time for some fun.

My husband had told me of when he used to drive from Monterey, CA to Morro Bay for clam chowder.  He described it as the best clam chowder that he has ever had.  I had been to Boston (albeit a long time ago as a teenager), but from what I had remembered, the clam chowder there was pretty good as well (the best, in my book).  Challenge accepted! We took a day trip from Fresno to Morro Bay to check out this infamous clam chowder.

 On our search for clam chowder…

When we arrived, it was pouring rain.  I was a little sad because I wanted to take a walk onto the pier and take pictures of the bay.  Since we would be sitting down for our meal, I was hoping that, by the time we finish, the rain may let up.  We decided to eat at Tognazzini’s Dockside Restaurant.  My husband had the clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl and fish and chips.  I ordered some raw oysters, clam chowder and a side salad.

With the first bite of the chowder, you can taste the freshness of the clams – and there was a good number of them in the soup, too!  I mean, I’ve had other clam chowders that were more like cream of potato with maybe a hint of clam juice (i.e. NOT clam chowder).  With this chowder, you can tell its CLAM.CHOWDER.  I even had a bay leaf in my soup portion (now I know ONE of the ingredients – haha!)  For the bread bowl, it was kept warm and moist from the chowder itself and was delicious as well as functional!   


The fish (in the fish & chips) as well as the oysters were fresh (no fishy smell or aftertaste).  Even my Mother-In-Law, who is not a “fish person” liked the fish & chips.  How amazing is that?!


By the way, yes, driving all that way for chowder was really worth it, too!

There are a number of dockside restaurants that one can choose from.  We just happened to go to Tognazzini’s by chance.  From what I saw on Yelp for that area, a lot of the dockside restaurants had really good reviews as well.

When we had finished our meal, the rain had become nothing more than a light sprinkle and eventually stopped.  After purchasing some salt-water taffy (next door to the restaurant), we took a walk out onto the pier.

Of course, there was Morro Rock, which gave the town and bay it’s name.  The rock, itself is a volcanic plug and is connected by a causeway to the shore, making it a tied island.  It is also protected, so climbing the rock and disturbing the wildlife is prohibited.

Speaking of wildlife, they seem to think that this is a popular hangout as well.

I also learned that this is a good area for hiking, paddle-boarding, boating and wine-tasting (to name a few of the activities available here).  This would definitely be a great place to spend an extended weekend to relax and unwind.

Have you been here also? Share your experiences below in the comments section!
Want to learn more?  Click on the links below and maybe plan your next stay there!

http://www.morrobay.org/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morro_Bay,_California

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morro_Rock

http://www.morrobaydockside.com/

–Maeven

The Little Prince (2016)

Tuesdays will be dedicated for the arts & entertainment. We’ll address and expose various current exhibits, venues, movies/albums, or even local street art.

This week, I found time to sit down and watch a movie from start to end with the kids. So yes, this is about a children’s movie, but the messages promoted in the Netflix feature film The Little Prince speak to an audience of all ages.

source: wikipedia

Continue reading “The Little Prince (2016)”