Monday, May 31, 2010

Ours is a forbidden love. - Willow

336 Days to go: 317 Things to Do: Day 24 in Chicago

49.  Movies at Webster Place

Memorial Day.  Long weekends are excellent.  I spend a lazy morning at home and then LuCinda and I decide it's time.  Time for us to go see Sex And The City 2.   We hop a bus and go to Regal Theaters in Webster Place 1471 W Webster.

The movie is pretty much what I expected.  Excellent fashion.  I love that the men take a back seat to the friendship story lines.  I'm still Team Aidan.  And for some reason Charlotte is so so much more likable in the movies than she was in the series.

It's Memorial Day.  And we're lazy.  So after the movie we head home.
335 Days to go: 316 Things to Do: 24 Days in Chicago = 27 new experiences

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Hootenanny. Chock full of hoot - just a little bit of nanny. - Oz

337 Days to go: 320 Things to Do: Day 23 in Chicago

46. BBQ with friends
47. Karaoke at Innjoy
48. Dancing at Club Foot

Things I learned today?  The correct way to spell hootenanny.  The fact that 'hootenanny' is an old Appalachian colloquialism.  And people who helped popularize it include Woodie Guthrie and Pete Seeger.

Things I did today?  Three letters.  B.B.and Q.

Eventually I'm able to move off the couch and drag myself the15 minutes it takes me to walk to LuCinda's where she and her roommate are hosting a Memorial Day barbecue. 

I'm about four hours behind everyone else, which means I'm just in time for Round Two!  Lovely.  Twenty minutes after I arrive the grill is re-ignited and a fresh round of burgers and hot dogs are passed around.  The weather is perfect so we sit on her back porch, eating, drinking (not me, not so much), and playing Catch Phrase.  Badly.  We play Catch Phrase badly.  Nobody is paying that much attention.  And nobody cares about the score, so we don't even bother keeping track.

Around nine we decide to go back to Innjoy 2051 W Division, the site of our 'double dutch' triumph the night before.  Although there are rumors of karaoke.  The bouncer remembers us from the night before.  I'm a bit sheepish when I enter, but get over it when I see the rumors are TRUE.  Karaoke.

Okay, so here's my theory on karaoke.  I believe it to be 80% song choice and 20% enthusiasm.  Talent is irrelevant.  At least with a good crowd.  And I am nothing if not good at creating a 'good crowd'.  I rarely sing.  But I'm all about crowd support.  Everyone likes to be cheered.

Innjoy is one of those places that I always enjoy (heh.  no pun intended) when I'm there and think I should spend more time at, but then kind of forget.  But they always have fun entertainment.  Other nights I've gone to rock and roll bingo, dancing, now karaoke.  And its kitchen is open late - the mac and cheese is quite good.  It comes in a crock.

After a couple hours we decide we do want to go dancing so we relocate to Club Foot 1824 W Augusta.  Club Foot is a spectacular dive bar with great music and cheap cheap beer.  And a Tetris video game that's only a quarter a person.  Which I play every time I go; I love the little Russian dancers who celebrate when you move to the next level.  I'm also very good at Tetris which has manifested practically in my life giving me superior packing abilities. 

Club Foot is traditionally where I spend New Years Eve in Chicago.  In addition to good music and cheap drinks and a Tetris game, there is also a pool table in the back; just when you start to get hungry and think about a late night snack the tamale guys comes in (yummy); the whole place is decorated with the most amazing kitschy paraphernalia - you could stay occupied just staring at the walls and ceiling.  Love it.

One more day of weekend.  Thank god.

336 Days to go: 317 Things to Do: 23 Days in Chicago = 27 new experiences

Saturday, May 29, 2010

It was pretty impressive. Although later there was an ick factor. - Willow

338 Days to go: 322 Things to Do: Day 22 in Chicago

44. BYOB at Butterfly Sushi
45. Beer Garden and board games at Happy Village

I love birthdays. Those people who don't celebrate their birthday? I don't get those people. And I always get a little confused when the birthday girl or boy apologetically explains that the birthday dinner/party/drinks they just invited me to isn't happening ON the actual day, but is the day before/after/on Friday. I celebrate my birthday all week long. The entire month if I can get away with it. Although now I have a lot of good friends that also have January birthdays so I must share.

I think my devotion to celebrating birthdays was cemented in college. Being a January birthday in college means no classes and friends spread all over the country because of winter break. Typically, friends return to college in waves, not all at once, and wave by wave friends would realize I had turned a year older and decide we needed to commemorate the occasion (this was particularly true when I turned 21). Just because I'm not in college now....

In one of my more brilliant moments I once pulled off a spectacularly fake birthday for a friend of mine. She'd just broken up with a boy and needed cheering up, so we had a girls night. At stop number two I blatantly lie to the wait staff and tell them it's her birthday. Even strangers enjoy celebrating birthdays. It's happy. People sing to you. You get free stuff. There is cheering.

I believe this to be true: Everyone likes to be cheered.

Anyway - birthdays are great. But you know when getting sung to and getting free stuff and being cheered is even better? When you're SAD and DON'T WANT TO BE. One of the funnest nights ever. ;)

All of this explains why I was so excited today to join my friend Emily as she attempted to make up for years of neglect and do her birthday RIGHT. Way to kick off Memorial Day Weekend. In style.

Our first couple stops are old favorites - dinner at Butterfly Sushi 1421 W Chicago (the restaurant is BYOB so almost all of us stop at Noble Grape across the street and bring a bottle of wine. they also bring us some yummy desserts in celebration of the birthday girl. see? free stuff!) then down the block and across the street for a martini and manicure at the Beauty Shop. Sadly there was another group ahead of us getting manis and as we had a packed agenda, we didn't want to wait. But they did give Emily a $10 chip for a free drink (more free stuff)

Then we head to one of Emily's favorite places; Happy Village 1059 N Wolcott. This place is pretty great. Very happy. It's nestled in a residential neighborhood and has a huge back yard turned beer garden. They've set up a couple of tents in the back with patio chairs and picnic tables and let you bring in your own food (no kitchen). Typically there are any number of board or card games being played and the whole atmosphere is very chill. Oh, and they only serve beer - in bottles and cans, nothing on tap. We play yahtzee and catch phrase. Emily is not the only birthday in the house (under the tents?) so there is lots of singing. And when they move everyone inside around midnight (so as to be a good neighbor) there are ping pong tables to cushion the blow.

Eventually we move on to the Small Bar. Just a quick stop here to have a beer. I, of course, put money on the jukebox. I even convince a couple of guys to give me money to put in the jukebox for watching their drinks when they went out for a smoke. But, we hear rumors of dancing next door so we head over to Innjoy 2051 W Division.

Initially the music isn't that great, but soon the DJ figures out what we like. We're not subtle. And the cheesy 80's tunes keep flowing. Fun was definitely had. There was a group of guys there dressed like the A Team. One of them was particularly excited because I knew he was B.A. Baracus (not Mr. T) but I'm anxiously awaiting the movie so was in the right frame of mind. Towards the end of the night we also managed to recruit several of the Innjoy patrons to join us as we pretend to double dutch (we didn't have jump ropes). The bouncer was amused.

At the end of the night Mary Grace and I (and our new friend Patrick) relocate to evilOlive for more dancing. I manage to get home around 4am. Happy Birthday, Emily!

So all in all, it WAS pretty impressive. The ick factor arrived the next day when I was incapable of motivating off the couch and arrived at the barbecue four hours behind everyone else.

337 Days to go: 320 Things to Do: 22 Days in Chicago = 27 new experiences

Friday, May 28, 2010

If you want the ultimate, you have to be willing to pay the ultimate price. - Bodhi, Point Break

339 Days to go: 325 Things to Do: Day 21 in Chicago

41.  Grab a bottle of wine at Noble Grape
42.  Chicago style hot dogs at Duks
43.  Netflix DVD at home

It's not tragic to die doing something you love. - more from Bodhi.   I don't know about that.  But it's sure fun to live doing something you love.

It's Memorial Day Weekend.  Weeeeeeeeee.  We've got big plans for the weekend, so tonight we go low key.  In preparation for one of the 'Chicago To Do's' on the list we had Netflixed a copy of Point Break, and tonight seemed the perfect night to watch it.  So, after work, we hop on the blue line, get out at Chicago and head to my favorite neighborhood wine shop - Noble Grape 802 N Bishop.   

There are a lot of things to love about Noble Grape.  They do free wine tastings once or twice a week.  The staff are friendly and laid back.  The wine is good and inexpensive (flowing from their 'sophisticated, approachable wine' philosophy).  There is a membership list or loyalty club or something that results in a discount for every $100 you spend.  I'm not sure of the details, I haven't hit $100 yet, but (fingers crossed) any day now.  But the best, best, best thing about Noble Grape?  They DELIVER.  They BRING you wine.  If you live near by (which happily I do) or if you're dining at one of the neighborhood BYOBs you make a little phone call and minutes later you have wine.  It's glorious.  And tonight they are doing a free tasting of Spanish Wine, which Emily and I enthusiastically participate in before making our purchase.

And for dinner - Chicago style hot dogs.  Duk's (officially Donald Duk's Red Hots) 636 N Ashland is the perfect neighborhood hot dog stand.  It's cheap and the food is great.  Excellent late night stop - complete with an stacked jukebox (bob seger's you'll accomp'ny me is one of my all time favorites).  There's limited outdoor seating when the weather is nice and only about half a dozen stools inside when it's not.  The women who work there are somehow crotchety and hospitable at the same time.  And did I mention the food is great and wicked cheap?  Because it is.  I always order the polish sausage with everything (chicago style of course) and a chocolate shake.  Nine times out of ten the shake machine is broken - but if you can catch them when it's not WORTH IT!

The first time I was offered a polish sausage here I refused it.  I was convinced it was the most unhealthy thing I had ever seen.  But after four hours of drinking I returned and while I may have been right - this may be incredibly unhealthy - it's worth every bite.  And I'm told the cheeseburgers are also a tasty treat. 

A Chicago - style hot dog is a steamed, boiled or grilled all beef hot dog topped with mustard, onion, sweet pickle relish (like emerald relish), a dill pickle spear, peppers and celery salt.  Note:  NO ketchup.  Nope.  Ketchup allowed only for those who need them on their fries.  And the hot dogs (and polishes) are brilliant that way.   

Another fun fact?  Chicago has more hot dog stands than McDonalds, Burger Kings, and Wendy's COMBINED.  At least according to wikipedia.  And in my day to day experience seems to be true.

Oh, and Point Break?  Just as horrifically enthralling as you remember it.  We miss you, Mr Swayze.
What's the matter with you guys? This was never about the money, this was about us against the system. That system that kills the human spirit. We stand for something. We are here to show those guys that are inching their way on the freeways in their metal coffins that the human spirit is still alive - Bodhi, Point Break

338 Days to go: 322 Things to Do: 21 Days in Chicago = 27 new experiences

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Well. This is just...neat. - Spike

340 Days to go: 326 Things to Do: Day 20 in Chicago

40. Drinks at the Terrace at Trump

The Terrace at Trump 401 N Wabash opened a little less than a year ago. I'm a big fan. The cocktails are, in my opinion, outrageously expensive. But you're really paying for the view which is, also in my opinion, the best in the city and totally worth it. I think I would have loved this place anyway, but it was helped by my first visit. The waiter was ridiculously adorable and without prompting quoted a line from Ghostbusters ("cross the streams"). I was also with a large group and we switched tables mid drink; during the transfer the (different) waiter spilled my drink so the manager gave us the whole round for free. And replaced my drink. Which was yummy.

Tonight there was just three of us, me, Fitz, and our friend Jenny. Jenny's a teacher. Excellent stories.

Yes.  That is a flower in my drink.  And (tip) NOT sugar on the rim.  Cayenne. 

The view is incredible. The Terrace is sixteen stories above the Chicago River and looks on as it meets Lake Michigan. And if that's not breathtaking enough the architecture in this part of the city is some of its best - The Tribune Tower, The Wrigley Building, Hotel 71 (which I think is where Bruce Wayne lived in Dark Knight while Wayne Manor was being rebuilt) to name a few. Well, and the Trump building itself is pretty cool.

339 Days to go: 325 Things to Do: 20 Days in Chicago = 27 new experiences

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Stop this crazy whirl-a-gig of fun. I'm dizzy. - Xander

341 Days to go: 328 Things to Do: Day 19 in Chicago

38. Turkish Fest
39. Grape crushing at the Chicago Marriott Downtown

I've spent one day in Turkey. Here are the things I remember: Turkey is a democratic secular country. The primary religion is Islam. They were petitioning to become members of the European Union. The food was good, the scenery beautiful. We went to Ephesus and toured the ruins. The carpet weaving and apple tea. We saw traditional folkloric dancers. The House of the Virgin Mary.

The dancers were invigorating, one of my favorite parts. Lots of clapping and yelling and squatting. This week was the annual Turkish Fest in Daley Plaza 50 W Washington. And they were advertising performances of the Whirling Dervishes, so clearly I had to go.

Yay. The dance performance and fashion show started over 20 minutes late, which was annoying. Especially because it was wicked hot out and I was wearing cute black ballerina flats which meant my feet were cooked a bit in the sun. But in the end, was worth the wait.

The fashions conjured up images of gypsies. Which makes sense, I guess, since Turkey has one of the larger Romani populations. And the dancing was just as fun as I remembered. But the Whirling Dervishes were amazing and beautiful. Somehow, they keep their entire body still and poised while spinning, spinning, spinning.  I was a little in awe.

After the performances, I take a spin around the booths and picked up a snack (Turkish club soda and baklava - yum yum). The coolest artisan I saw was the paper marbling with Ebristan'da Ara. I have no idea what this was, I've never seen anything like it before and all the information I find on him is in Turkish. Which for me is not that helpful. But he seemed to have a pan of oil, that he then painted and used tools to create different designs and textures. And then he laid a piece of paper on it and had a beautiful work of art. Crazy. Oh, apparently it works on silk scarves as well.

That took him about five minutes. Mad skills.

After work, Mary Grace and I head up to the Chicago Marriott Downtown to attend a grape crushing event. I'm not sure how often they do this but it was $10 all you can eat, all you can drink, and you can help them make their next batch of house wines. Very cool.

The lobby is a large and airy bar with a giant cone fixture hanging from the ceiling that lights up and changes colors. The 'crushing' wasn't as cool as I was hoping but fun enough and the food was amazing (six kinds of sausage. SIX!). I did get to empty two boxes of grapes into the crusher machine. They get their grapes from Chile FYI. And they keep bees on the rooftop for their honey. Later this summer they're planning a beer and brat event. Who has two thumbs and is going to that? Oh yeah. This girl.

340 Days to go: 326 Things to Do: 19 Days in Chicago = 27 new experiences

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I'm a great cook. In theory. I've eaten alot. Buffy

342 Days to go: 329 Things to Do: Day 18 in Chicago

37. Lunch at The Plaza at Park Grill

I have eaten a lot.  But I don't cook, not really.  Sometimes I think about learning.  To cook, I mean.  But then I decide to make popcorn.  Or eat some cheese.  I like cheese.

Willow:  She likes cheese.
Riley:  Huh?
Willow:  Well, I'm not saying it's the key to her heart or anything, but Buffy, she likes cheese.

It's Burger Fest this week at The Plaza at Park Grill 11 N Michigan and I manage to convince Mary Grace to accompany me for lunch.  The Plaza is the largest al fresco dining location in the city.  And during the summer they have live music Thursday nights.  There's also indoor seating (The Park Grill) but I'm saving that for when the weather isn't gorgeous.  You know.  In January.  Oh!  Maybe we'll go for my birthday.  Go Capricorns.

But back to the burgers.  These were some excellent burgers.  MG and I ordered two and split them because neither of us could decide.  We shared the dry aged burger (w smoked aged gouda) and the grilled turkey burger (w guava bbq sauce).  Burger Fest is through Sunday - get there quick!

341 Days to go: 328 Things to Do: 18 Days in Chicago = 25 new experiences

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Just random adorableness. - Buffy

343 Days to go: 331 Things to Do: Day 16 in Chicago

35. Ohio Street Beach
36. Having a Ball Ballroom Dance Championship

So, today we have to do brunch near our place because Allison is the one who has to catch a plane. And it's gorgeous out. Correction. Hot. It's hot out. Outdoor seating a must. We don't plan ahead at all (last night Mary Grace did have to kick us out after all...we were distracted celebrating my dominance in the trivia game) so the best we can come up with is returning to Old Oak Tap and its vast amount of outdoor seating.

Brunch is, honestly, a little disappointing. Excellent mimosa. Good potatoes. But the brunch menu is limited and not that great. Note to self: Old Oak Tap for dinner only. No worries.

After, Emily and I meet up with LuCinda and head to the beach. Yet another shocking confession - I've never really gone to any of Chicago's beaches. But as I planned on heading to Navy Pier around 5 for the ballroom dancing, we decide on Ohio Street Beach which is a tiny little strip just around the corner. It was perfect. I think because it's smaller it doesn't get as crowded as some of the other beaches. Another claim to fame? It faces north! (instead of east like most of chicago's beaches) Be a rebel Ohio Street, do your own thing. The only downside would be the fact that coming from brunch and going out after meant I wasn't really beach wear appropriate and didn't have all the accessories you would want. I did manage to bring a towel which was a step ahead of Emily. Luckily LuCinda had an extra. Crises averted. We were only there for an hour or two; we made it work. And decided we were all going to take a vacation day to come back and really do it up right while still avoiding the weekend crowd.

Strictly Ballroom is an excellent movie. And So You Think You Can Dance is an excellent show. I say these things, first because they are true and second because it helps you understand why, upon learning of the 5th grade ballroom dancing competition taking place at Navy Pier I become determined to attend. Despite the fact that I know no fifth graders in the Chicagoland area. So, so, so adorable. Having a Ball is a 20-week ballroom dancing course for students in Chicago Public Schools. They learn the Cha-Cha, the Waltz, the Tango, the Paso Doble and the Jive. Normally, I'm a huge fan of the Paso Doble (at least on SYTYCD) but here the Jive stole the show. Delightful.


oh. the other bummer about the beach? i got sand in one of my cameras and it's acting a bit funky. sad.

342 Days to go: 329 Things to Do: 16 Days in Chicago = 24 new experiences

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Ready to get down, you funky party weasel? - Xander

344 Days to go: 335 Things to Do: Day 15 in Chicago

31. Lunch at Deli Boutique
32. Lincoln Park Conservatory and Grandma's Garden
33. Lincoln Park Zoo
34. Sex And The City Party at Mary Grace's

I was promised 80 degrees and sunny. But I awoke to clouds and...less than 80 degrees. Sad.

Never fear, however. We braved the less-than-perfect-but-still-nice-enough-to-wear-flip-flops weather and headed to Lincoln Park Conservatory to check out the pretty flowers. Now, those familiar with Chicago are going to cringe at this confession. I've never before been to Lincoln Park. Gasp. I know.

When I first moved here, I was staying with friends in Andersonville and would often drive up and down Lake Shore Drive so, you know, I'd seen Lincoln Park. But had never really gone. Now that I have, my most notable conclusion is that I need to continue exploring because Lincoln Park (both neighborhood AND park) are huge. And seem to have a lot going on.

First stop, we need sustenance for our adventures. I've never been to France, but Deli Boutique 2318 N Clark is what I imagine a little parisian cafe would look like. With a salad and a caramel brownie in hand (balance is important), we head to the park.

We walk around the grounds first, then head inside. The Lincoln Park Conservatory 2391 N Stockton is part of the Chicago Parks District and is made up of four rooms. It's free and open year round. In front of the Conservatory is a formal garden - unfortunately it's apparently not 'in season' just yet - and across the street is Grandma's Garden. I think it was still early in the season for Grandma's Garden as well, but there was still some beautiful flowers blooming. I'll just have to visit again later in the summer to get the full effect. The two gardens are supposed to represent contrasting styles - the formal garden more structured and Grandma's Garden more free form.

For your viewing pleasure - a tour of the Conservatory.

The Palm House - "It takes a really big greenhouse to grow a palm."
Before getting to the eye candy, I do need to say, it's worth it to read the signs. I don't know who writes them, but they were pretty hysterical.

Things I learned in the Palm House: Palms were originally referred to as the 'Prince among plants'. Almost every part of a palm can be used (so they're smart AND pretty).

The Fern Room - "A small dinosaur would feel at home in the Fern Room."

Fun facts from the Fern Room: Before Illinois was covered by prairies it was a wet tropical forest.

The Orchid House - "Historically this room housed orchids."

I didn't really learn anything new in the Orchid House. Except that Lady Slippers (Minnesota's State Flower) is an orchid. Growing up, I just thought they were pretty flowers. And that I'd get in trouble if I picked them. And I sniffed an orchid that smelled like coconut. There was a giant arrow that said 'SMELL'. So I did.

The Show House - Apparently there isn't anything funny about the Show House. Serious Business.

And you finish up again in the Palm House.

Then we went to the Zoo. We didn't head over until 4:30 and technically the zoo closes at 5, although come 5:10 no one seemed all that concerned about kicking people out. I am like a little kid at the zoo. Which, would have been embarrassing but - I don't know. Just wasn't. I was giddy but felt justified. The first thing I see when we walk through the entrance? A RHINO! Who WOULDN'T get excited. And right next door? GIRAFFES!! Lions! Penguins! Sadly all the bears were napping inside. And it was too late to see any of the monkeys or gorillas. My favorites. Yet ANOTHER place I will have to return. Such is my lot in life.

But the real excitement of the evening is, of course, Mary Grace's Second Sex And The City Party. Happy to report last time was not a fluke and I again dominated the trivia game. More prizes! Lots of cosmos.  And dancing.  Not shockingly, MG had to ask us to leave.  She also invited me to be a judge for the next trivia contest (assuming a SATC 3).  Which is a thinly veiled bribe since I was also forbidden to play next year.  It's not my fault my brain absorbs Buffy the Vampire Slayer quotes and Sex And The City facts better than most people remember their favorite coffee order.  It's a gift and a curse.  PRIZES!

343 Days to go: 331 Things to Do: 15 Days in Chicago = 22 new experiences