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maura @ 10:19 pm
We had a lovely time on our midwest vacation recently, plenty of opportunity for relaxation plus surprisingly pleasant, even coolish, weather. The adults slipped off to Chicago for a couple of days too. I’ll never turn down a visit to Chicago, though as I get older such trips tend to come with All The Feels. I still love the city as much as I ever did in college, which means nostalgia of course, but also I feel concern about recent troubles that the city’s going through. Driving in I feel like a huge nerd from that first glimpse of the Sears Tower, ogling the industry and trains in Gary, past the beautiful Chicago Vocational School building on the South Side, up the expressway next to the El and past IIT, over through McCormick Place and up Lake Shore Drive. Even with traffic it’s amazing.
I think the fact that Chicago’s probably the place that most explicitly falls into the Road Not Taken category for me adds to the emotions when I visit. There are the Actual Roads — like when I didn’t go to grad school there just after college, or didn’t apply for the Assessment Librarian job there a few years ago (still the only job I’ve even passingly considered applying for since I started at City Tech). Then there are the Possible Roads — like pretty much anytime either Jonathan or I was at a job change point, a time when we could have picked up and moved someplace new without too much disruption beyond the hassle that is moving. Chicago could have been a logical place to move for any number of reasons.
All of this means that I walk through the city feeling like there are other, ghostly versions of me hanging around as well. Of course the ghostly me wouldn’t be doing all of the touristy things that visitor me does. Really, sometimes touristy me just wants to ride the Brown Line on the El for a couple of hours (Best Views Evar), or take my laptop down to the Mansueto library reading room at UChicago (as the kids call it these days) and get some writing done. But touristy me who is not alone does other things, which is okay (and more social).
This time we did the self-guided donuts, art, and books tour. We started by taking the Brown Line to Merchandise Mart and stopping for breakfast at a donut place we’d never been to called Glazed and Infused. Flavors sampled included coffee glazed, maple glazed w/bacon, old fashioned, and chocolate frosted banana cream filled (yuck, that last not for me). I still like Do-Rite’s bacon donut best, but this one was pretty tasty. The next morning before leaving we went to Do-Rite and all they had was one gluten-free maple bacon donut, which is just not the same, I’m sorry to say, mostly because it’s a cake donut rather than a cruller. But the cinnamon sugar old fashioned was terrific.
Then it was off to the Art Institute for much of the day. We spent lots of time in the European galleries which we hadn’t seen recently, but also hit some old (and new) faves: the Chagall stained glass windows (still incredibly gorgeous despite their oddly-uninspiring new location in a dark corner near the bathrooms), the Cornell boxes in the (still) new to us modern wing, and the Ando room in the East Asian wing. On our way down to the ever-amusing Thorne Miniatures we swung through the kind of hilarious paperweight room — who knew there were so many different artistic paperweight eras?
For the books portion of our trip, we stopped by the new location of the Seminary Co-op Bookstore in Hyde Park, where we are still members despite not having purchased anything since the mid-90s (judging by the address they had on file for me). I’d forgotten how nice it is to browse a bookstore with both loads of fiction as well as scholarly books — two whole shelves of Anthropology! And the realization that I am now more familiar with the titles on the two shelves next to them, which held Education books. Course books are still in the basement, mostly empty now for the summer. We had to restrain ourselves from buying all of the new Oxford “Very Short Introduction to…” books (we got: Math, Archaeology, Probability, and Nothing [which is mostly Physics]). It was rad.
And eating, woah, did we eat. Aside from the aforementioned donuts we had dinner at Endgrain, where the sprout kimchi and pork belly appetizers were highlights. We also ate at Publican which was super meaty and delicious: harissa pate, boudin blanc, and head cheese, yum, though also tasty peas and avocado spread on toast. Then breakfast at Little Goat on our last day to top it off, with pork belly, kimchi, and eggs on a biscuit (and my realization that I can rarely resist ordering kimchi or pork belly if they’re on a menu). Then we rolled on home, all at once fat + happy + sad.
maura @ 2:56 pm
Avocados! Lately I cannot eat enough of them. Is that some sort of deficiency? I don’t know, but if it is then I’m happy to address it often, daily if possible.
I came to avocados kind of late in life, like lots of other tasty foods (and especially vegetables). My family ate a pretty conservative British Isles-type diet when I was growing up, lots of meat and potatoes, punctuated by the occasional Chinese takeout. I wasn’t exposed to non-Taco Bell Mexican food until high school, and even that was pretty bland (better than Chi-Chis, but not by much). Like many who spent their formative years in the suburbs I didn’t really start eating lots of different foods until college (in the city): Thai, Indian, Greek, Japanese, and, yes, Mexican and Cal-Mex.
Once I started eating Mexican/Cal-Mex food of course there was guacamole and chips, yum. I’m kind of sensitive to textures — can’t really eat yogurt, pudding, or smooth/slimy foods that are similar — but guacamole was so delicious that I tried it anyway. Plus the chunks of tomatoes and chips for dipping cut the softness so I could eat it. I resisted moving on to plain avocados, though, for fear of texture issues. They always seemed kind of bland, too, unless they were mashed up with spices in guacamole. But little by little I’ve found myself eating them more often — sliced up on the occasional sandwich, maybe in chunks in a salad.
Then all of a sudden, earlier this year, Jonathan started buying avocados and serving them up in halves on salad or as a side dish. And bam, I was hooked! Now I greedily eat them first, and it doesn’t even matter if there’s no dressing or seasoning. (I think my tastes are changing as I age, as lately I’ve found myself much more willing to eat lots of vegetables without any sauce or spices at all, just their actual veggie taste.) They taste so green and summery and delicious, how could I have ignored them for so long?
maura @ 10:31 pm
We’ve recently come back to the land of pork in our house, and it’s a happy, happy land. Sometime last year the sprog decided not to eat pork. A friend of his was adhering to (and, truth be told, promoting) the same restrictions, because “pigs are friends, not food.”
Look, I like pigs as much as the next person. I mean, look at this little guy! He’s irresistable! And pigs are smart, and they have almost-uncannily-human-like teeth (except for those giant canines). I once had to identify practically an entire pig from a dig I worked on in Ireland and by the end of it I was a porcine skeletal expert, I tell ya.
But also, the pork, so delicious! It was really, really sad when Gus swore off piggies. We had just, *just* gotten him to eat port chops, yet another small step on the road of everyone eating the same dinner. So we cut down on (but didn’t swear off of) pork. We bought him turkey bacon and occasionally duck bacon too, which is delicious but super pricey. But it’s just not the same. We’d go to visit my dad and stepmother in Vermont and he’d miss out on all of the amazing sausages, fresh from the farm, some mapley! Mmmm, maple-flavored pork.
Then suddenly, last week he decided to eat pork again! It wasn’t quite as stark as waking up one weekend morning and saying, “Dad, please cook me some REAL bacon,” but it was almost like that. Jonathan went hog wild (sorry! couldn’t resist!) at the Coop the next day and bought every conceivable pork product imaginable, stuffing our freezer full. We had pork, like, 10 times last week.
I’m not complaining.
maura @ 5:18 pm
I’m on the way home from a conference right now which means that I’ve probably eaten far too many sandwiches over the past few days. I love sandwiches, I really do, and toast with butter and pretty much anything else bready.
When we first moved to New York we lived in Little Italy, what I guess the realtors now call Nolita. The apartment was kind of weird (2 bedrooms each had 1 glass wall!) but the neighborhood was fantastic: funky shops and buildings and really walkable and not too far from where we needed to be (and very near a good selection of subways too).
I don’t know why I started thinking about this the other day, but I had the most bizarre nostalgia flashback about the neighborhood. There was an Italian bakery on the next block south of our apartment. Not a fancy bakery but the working kind — they baked kaiser rolls and hoagie sub sandwich rolls and those sorts of things.
Now it feels like a dream, because how could it possibly be real? But sometimes we would be out late, too late, being our just-out-of-college selves at a concert or bar or whatever. The bakery would be baking, and the smell was amazing, you could smell it all the way up the block. And if we walked down to the bakery they’d sell us a warm roll fresh out of the oven for something ridiculous like a quarter.
Just so you know, a freshly-baked roll is about the most delicious thing you can eat at 2 or 3am.
Edited on 1/27/12 to add: I wasn’t lying to myself after all! Jonathan found a photo of the bakery on the interwebz. Except that he remembers it as loaves of bread rather than individual rolls.
maura @ 9:30 pm
Just like all of the other resolution-makers in the world we up and joined a gym a couple of weeks ago. We’d been eyeballing the gym where Gus takes swimming lessons for a while now. While it’s not the closest gym to where we live, it’s really inexpensive for a family membership and since 2/3 of us were already there for swimming on Saturdays it seemed like a good idea to morph that into Family Exercise Time. So we did. Jonathan swims while Gus swims and I do various machine-based exercises like the old lady non-exercise fan that I am.
(The Y is also kind of close to my work, though it remains to be seen whether I’ll be able to figure out a way to bend the space-time continuum and take advantage of that.)
Exercise for heart rate + sweat’s sake remains extremely dull to me, but I’ve definitely gained some weight since I quit our former gym when I started working full time again so it’s become a necessary evil. For the rest of the day I’m still in the feel-like-dying startup phase but hope to crossover into the feel-pretty-good settled in phase soon. I’d forgotten how much hungrier I get when I exercise — so far I tend to just want to eat and collapse after getting home, which is hardly a productivity booster.
Today it was lunchtime when we finished and we were all starving and the new Brooklyn Shake Shack is located perilously close to the subway stop we had to go to, so despite all best efforts we were sucked in by its tasty tractor beam, thus undoing all the good we’d done at the gym. Next time we’ll invest in burger blinders.
maura @ 7:00 pm
I had a great idea for today’s post but unfortunately I can no longer execute it because one critical component does not exist anymore. So I’ll explain it to you instead.
I wanted to put two jars from our fridge side-by-side and take a picture. Both jars are glass with brass-colored lids. Both jars (used to) contain golden brown thick liquids. One was small, maybe originally a maraschino cherry jar? The other, medium-sized, and used to hold peanut butter.
The liquids looked fairly identical, and therein lay the puzzle: which was caramel sauce, and which was turkey gravy? Choose wrong, and you’ll be sorry…
(Really, it would have been better as a photo. Too bad someone was hungry for gravy today! On the other hand, I think caramel sauce would be pretty gross on leftover turkey.)
maura @ 10:26 pm
We’re home today, having only taken the quick trip north. Where quick = the length of time we spent in Montreal, not the length of time we spent on a bus. Lots of sitting, oof.
Tired tonight and lots of TV to catch up on, so please enjoy some of my random photos from the trip!
We stopped at the Duty Free on the American side of the border on the way up, and in addition to cigarettes and liquor there were many somewhat unusual finds:
Who doesn’t love the full set of Lord of the Rings Pez dispensers? Look at that Gollum head!
Enormous candy abounded. I’ve only ever seen a Hershey bar this big at Hershey Park!
Also how would you even eat this gigantic lollipop? Wouldn’t it get all icky before you had a chance to finish it, like Homer’s sandwich? (Okay, how weird is it that I can only find that clip in German? Copyright stinks!)
When we got through Canadian customs we were waiting to reboard the bus near a door with this sign on it. I get that it means first aid, but it *looks* like it means “extra bandage-wrapped hands in here!”
And then there was poutine, and there was beer, and there was great rejoicing. Followed by cafe au lait and tarte de sucre, not pictured here. Candy bars were brought home as well, one Coffee Crisp and one Crunchie for each of us. Heaven forfend we ever move to Montreal because we will clearly become enormously fat!
maura @ 10:36 pm
Date night! At a restaurant we love, that we haven’t been to in forever. It was yummy.
Wine: Lambrusco. Like grape soda for adults!
Appetizers: ravioli stuffed with beets in butter and poppyseeds, gnocchi made of chard + cheese in brown butter. (Mmm, buttery!)
Mains: rabbit with gravy on polenta with oil-cured black olives (I could eat that every weekend and not get bored); saltimbocca (pork with prosciutto and sage) with smashed roasted potatoes
Dessert: shared a pear cake with chocolate chunks and vanilla whipped cream
Also there were some fancy after dinner drinks, not tokaj but looks like it, don’t remember what they were called (hint: it was Italian). Very yummy.
I never knew what tokaj was until reading The Golden Compass, and now I have a very strong association of the book and the drink. We got a bottle once with a very thin long neck and a pretty scrolly gold label. Also Hungary! A very interesting country, not in the least because Hungarian is not an Indo-European language.
Thus ends tonight’s randomfest. Tune in tomorrow for tales of woe as I try to finish up all of my work before heading up north to the anthropology conference later this week!
maura @ 10:23 pm
Gus had no school today, so he and Jonathan came to have lunch with me and visit my new office. Everyone liked the two old globes (there’s a second one on the desk in the workshop room right outside my office) and the fantastic old fashioned switches + fuses that came from one of our engineering departments (I’ll have to get a photo of them soon).
We went to a Polish diner for lunch, which I often forget exists because I typically bring my lunch. Pierogi FTW! I’d warned Jonathan that it wasn’t as good as some of the East Village joints, but now I’m not so sure that’s true. J ordered a Polish specialty we’d never had before — lazanki — which was egg noodles, sauerkraut, ham, and mushrooms. The plate came out and he said “it’s Polish yakisoba!” Which it totally, totally was. And delicious, too. Here’s a photo.
Then tonight I realized why I’ve been jonesing for Polish food. A place opened up a couple of blocks from our house called Polish Bar. When the sign went up before the place opened my heart leapt: why of COURSE, who wouldn’t want to sit on a barstool and eat pierogi and pickle soup? Sign me up! But, sigh, it turned out to be just another nail salon. I’ll take sauerkraut over a manicure any day of the week.
maura @ 9:13 pm
…on delicious pizza. And because it was my turn, I wrote a few hundred words about it. But not here. Elsewhere.