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Archive for the ‘Travels’ Category

Chicago Reunion Trip

I had never been to Chicago before so I am aware the title of this post is a little deceptive.  The reunion part of the trip was in the form of KW and Max–my two awesome roommates from when I lived in Washington, DC 10 years ago.  We all live in different parts of the country now and don’t talk as often as we should so when Max suggested a reunion over Labor Day we all jumped at the chance and actually made it happen.  We picked Chicago because none of us had been there before and because it was a good central location.  (Actually, technically I have been there before but I was a teenager and with my family on a huge road trip and we didn’t really see anything in the city so I don’t count it.)

So, I loved Chicago.  If you love cities (and goodness knows I do) you will love Chicago too.  First, the food…

On a first trip to Chicago you HAVE to have deep dish pizza.  We got ours at a famous place called Giordano’s.  I think it might be a touch too famous as the line there was INSANE.  We fought the crowds, got up to the counter where they told us we could put our name down, wait an hour and a half, and then come back and order our pizza.  We did as we were told only to find out that once you order the pizza, the wait is another hour before you sit down.  At this point we were at the end of a long day and opted instead to have the pizza delivered to our hotel (to cook the pizza and deliver it was going to take the same amount of time).

Deep Dish

Pizza in your hotel bed while watching a pay-per-view movie…perfect.

We went to some great restaurants.  Rick Blayless’ XOCO had really amazing sandwiches and guac as well as churros for dessert with a shot of chocolate and some Mexican vanilla ice cream for dipping.

Mmmm...churros

So good.

Another noteworthy meal was Heaven on Seven for brunch.  One of the brunch options is a buffet style meal.  There is not a buffet set up in the restaurant but if you order the buffet you get a variety of dishes brought to your table, all you can eat, for everyone to enjoy–100% participation is required.  Once we saw this deal, obviously we all decided to enjoy the buffet.  We were brought scrambled eggs, thick cut bacon and sausage, potatoes, shrimp and grits, cornbread, and all of our personal favorite…bananas foster french toast.  Yeah.  We ended up getting seconds of that perfect food.  It was divine.

Heaven on Seven buffet

We also snacked on copious amounts of Garrett’s popcorn–we got the mix of cheese and caramel popcorn and it was amazing–although it turned my fingers fluorescent orange whenever I ate it.  KW didn’t have the same problem and I couldn’t understand why until I watched her actually eat some popcorn.  She swiftly but delicately would pop each kernel into her mouth, one at a time but really fast, which resulted in super clean hands.  I really must remember to eat more lady-like when consuming large amounts of popcorn.

We also loved the Doubletree cookie we received at check-in to our hotel.  Max tried to fib sweet-talk her way into another cookie when we checked out but the lady ignored us and we remained cookie-less.  Sad.

So the food, it was really great.  Chicago is known for it and I got a small taste as to why.  You would think that was all we did (interspersed between bouts of food comas) but no.  We managed to get out and experience some of the town too.

We went to a Cubs game.  I am not a huge baseball fan but I do enjoy seeing a game in person.  Plus, Wrigley Field is historic and an arena unlike any other I have been to.  You can just feel the history there.

Me and KW at Wrigley

Our seats were located in a section that was nicely shaded–only problem, this was the kind of day where you really needed the sun to be comfortable.  I learned why Chicago is called the Windy City.  The wind coupled with the lack of direct sunlight resulted in a very cold watching experience.  But still, it was fun to be there.

Us at Wrigley

One of the highlights of the trip was going to the Chicago Art Institute.  There is some amazing art there that we had a lot of fun exploring (and taking pictures with).

Max as art

Max as modern art.

Us at the museum

Some took a little more time to take in.

Max listening

Max listening in.

We also walked around Millennium park, took lots of pictures of ourselves in the bean,

Us looking into the Bean

and saw other cool outdoor art.

Chicago outdoor art

If you wait a few minutes he starts crying.  It’s pretty deep.

One morning, we took an Agricultural river cruise.  Chicago has some of the most interesting and historic buildings and architecture in the U.S. so this tour was very interesting and a great way to see the city.

Chicago Agricultural River Tour

Our tour guide was awesome but she also looked and sounded exactly like the girl who plays the super fan Mel from Flight of the Conchords.  I’m not joking, I even wondered what the possibility of them being the same person was.

Tour guide as girl from FoC

Hi Mel. You were an awesome tour guide.

Perhaps the coolest thing we did was visit Oak Park to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s first family home, the studio he built, as well as a ton of homes in the neighborhood that he designed.  We were able to go on a tour of the inside of his house and it is hands down worth the trip out there.  He really was a genius and you can see it even in his early work.  I was in awe the whole tour long.  I wish they would have let us take pictures of the inside but alas, you will have to settle for this.

Frank's Studio

Outside Frank’s studio

As you can see, this trip was awesome.  What made it even more special was I got to reconnect with two friends who I love and share a lot of history with.  True friendships stand the test of time and pick up right where you left off.  KW and Max are those kind of friends.

Us at the Bean

Love you girls.

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I have been home for a couple of days but hadn’t yet gotten around to posting the progress I made on the carp.  Just as a reminder, here is where I started:

and after 1 and a half days of knitting, hanging out, late night conversations, and eating copious amounts of snack food with some great friends I am now here:

Yes, these are cell phone pics and each taken at different times of day/night so not great but you should be able to see the progress…please tell me you can see progress.

I basically got about two rows done.  I am over half way finished with the top now, so that is something.  I have figured out that each square averages 45 minutes to an hour for me to complete.  There are around 160 squares total.  Do the math.  Yeah.  I never thought of myself as a slow knitter before but man this is taking me some time.  All I am hoping for is that I will be able to finish the top before the Spring/Summer season is over.  And that it will fit…please say it will fit.

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Weekend in CO begins

I am at a cabin in Colorado this weekend with some of my most favorite people in the world. Most of them are scrapbooking, I am knitting. I have picked up the spring top I started about a year ago but put aside for way too long: the carp from Japanese Inspired Knits. I am including a picture of where I started below and will post a picture of how much I get done by the end of the weekend. I am kind of excited to see how far I get.

Like I have said before, this sweater is the most interestingly constructed garment I have ever knit. Who knows how it will turn out. But check out where I am starting and I’ll show you how much I get done. (Hopefully a lot.) I am thinking of it as a challenge. Wish me luck!

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Ohana Means Family

I have a hard time summing up my feelings about my visit home for Grandpa’s funeral.  The funeral itself was very profound, the time with my family was much needed–just being in Hawaii is a somewhat spiritual experience for me.  It was…wonderful.  Organized in sections, here is my attempt to document some of the highlights of the week.

FOOD

We ate all kinds of food that reminded us of grandpa.  Food like KFC, Chinese take out, Chantilly Cake, Kalbi Ribs, Kua’aina Burgers, and Hot Fudge Sundaes.

Yes, this is a lot of KFC. I believe we got a discount, although I think that was mainly because KFC found out grandpa had died–he was a good customer.

If you’ve never had Kalbi ribs before–specifically grilled by my Uncle Jim, then I am deeply sorry for you.

Chris really did eat the 8 pieces of Chantilly Cake on this plate.  And then he went back for seconds.

Side note: If you ever visit Hawaii, please make an effort to visit Liliha Bakery.  Just in case you are wondering what to order, it should be a Chantilly cake and/or–if you don’t have the space to store a whole cake–a Coco Puff (great blog about the tasty treats here.)  The topper of this divine pastry is a nice portion of their famous Chantilly icing (yum, yum, yum.) Liliha bakery also  has a small eating counter with diner like food on the menu. I hear it is good although I have always felt a wee bit too haole to sit at the counter.  My mom has though.  She’s local like that.

COUSINS

I feel pretty lucky to have so many memories and experiences with cousins who I genuinely like.  I am also pretty grateful that the ones who are married have given me some cousins-in-law that I am proud to call family.  All the cousins except the pregnant one (We missed you Jill!) were in Hawaii which served as a wonderful impromptu family reunion.

FAMILY TIME

We had a work party.

Picnic party.

Went for walks.

We took self portraits.

Some successful.

Some not so much.

GRANDPA

Of course, the whole reason we were there, and the meaning behind all the activities we shared, was to pay honor to the life of our Grandpa.  I was reminded of the good life he led and was inspired to look at my own life, reset my focus, and make some important changes.  I also committed to stay connected to some of my favorite people on earth.

My family.

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Um, yes.  It probably escaped your notice that I never posted the final post about my big trip.  But I didn’t forget and at the risk of beating a dead horse, I still want to post it for my own edification and records.  First though, I do have to say thank you–so so much–for all the wonderful comments on my Little Birds pullover.  You guys make a finished knit so much more enjoyable by sharing in the fun with me.  So thank you.  And now, to Paris…

Paris was blissful.  Restful.  Beautiful.  It was all things yummy.  Speaking of yummy…

Here are some of the edible highlights:

  • Salads topped with the most perfectly cooked potatoes and, among other delights, tossed with chunks of amazing cheese–french cheese
  • Baguettes–lots and lots of baguettes
  • Pan au chocolat–I believe I had one every morning we were there
  • Macaroons–I have never had anything like these.  I thought all macaroons had to be coconut.  Not true at all.  We had raspberry, pistachio, chocolate, lemon…all in vivid colors that made them not only taste good but look like a perfect rainbow of deliciousness.
  • Crepes–three to be exact.  One savory and two sweet.  The best one was bought on the street and where the guy had the nutella heated already.  Oh man…I can still taste that crepe.
  • Angelina’s Hot Chocolate.

I believe it is safe to say that if I didn’t do anything more than eat I would have been perfectly content with my stay in Paris.  Of course though, Paris is more than just food.  As this was my first trip to the city I felt we needed to cover some of the basics in terms of art.  I mean, I HAD to go to the Louvre.  I mean really.

I think I thought this was going to be another of those places where I have seen the “famous” art so much in pictures that it really wouldn’t be as cool in person.  I did not find this to be the case at all.  I mean, the Venus de Milo was stunning and the Mona Lisa really is pretty mysterious after all.  But I did find it interesting how a lot of people pass by the art that is not well known and hit the “famous” pieces only.  I also wonder why some sculpture or paintings become more famous than others that are seemingly (to me at least) as interesting.  We also made it to The Orsay museum which houses a lot of impressionist art.  It was so beautiful Kara couldn’t contain her glee.

“I long for the Orsay, don’t you?”

Our last morning in Paris was spent walking around what is, I believe, the coolest graveyard I have ever been to.  Pere LaChaise is haunting and full of a variety of interesting dead people.

I love this grave where the statue happened to be holding beautiful fresh flowers.

And here lies Oscar Wilde who should never be in doubt of the love people have for him.

Well there you go folks.  The trip recap is over.  Thanks for reading along and encouraging me to share.  And to my sister and super fun travelling companion Kara, here’s to memories that 50 years from now we will share with our cats as we knit in matching rockers.  Only good times ahead I tell you.

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The Big Trip: Versailles

I am giving Versailles its own special posting because, well, I can. If you haven’t been to the palace and gardens at Versailles but plan to go there is one thing you really should know. Be prepared to wait. Crazy long disney-esque lines. If you can figure out a way to buy a ticket before arriving I would highly recommend it. So there is your little travel tid-bit for the day. Of course, to avoid the lines you could always skip Versailles, but I would NOT recommend you do that.

Not really Versailles but significant because I thought it was.

Versailles is this crazy opulent fabulous world all the vision of King Louis XVI. (Of course, Versailles is also a bigger town where real French people live now but for the purpose of this post when I say Versailles I mean the palace and gardens.) Louis moved the French court here in order to keep a close eye on everyone and to head off ideas of revolt. So really Versailles had to become its own little world and that is exactly what you feel when you are there.

We toured the house first which was something that you really shouldn’t miss.

I love any museum tour with a headset. Perhaps it is my history major roots showing but I think knowing the history and great stories associated with a place help it to come alive and make me at least appreciate it more.

Perhaps the most famous room is the Hall of Mirrors. It is a super long and high ceiling-ed ballroom that looks like it is wall papered in mirrors in one side and the other has rows of tall windows. Add to that chandeliers and guilded trimmings it makes for a pretty impressive spectacle.

Oh how I would have loved to go to a ball in this room back in the day. Not that I am really the ball type, but I think I could be talked into it here.

Everywhere you looked in the palace was guilded or painted or carved. Not a single corner was left out.

One day I am going to get one of these made of me knitting:

Once you are done touring the palace you might think you are done with the main event. Lucky for us, Louis and the French monarchs that followed, knew the beauty of your surroundings extended to the outdoors.

I have never in my life seen gardens like this. I know you have heard it said that the French are a romantic people and I believe the design of this garden reflects that stereotype. It is made for strolling and getting lost. The gardens are vast and beautifully kept. There is a maze, and roads that lead to mini-cottages. It is crazy beautiful.

In my opinion, Versailles is a not-to-miss attraction. It made me want to rent every movie about the French monarchy in the 17th and 18th centuries. I haven’t yet but I still plan on it.

One thing to note though, this attraction does take a bit out of you with the line waiting and the crowd wrangling inside. Lucky for us though, we were able to make good use of the gardens:

Up next: Food, Art, and Death

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I have this friend. We’ll call him Smorgan. I have known this friend for a long, long time. Over the course of our friendship I learned, Paris is not Smorgan’s thing. I am not sure it was because of him (but I think I will blame it on him regardless) but for a long time I never really felt a strong pull to visit Paris. It took Kara telling me for years how much I would love it and so I decided when this trip was first conceived that Paris had to be on the itinerary. I had to know for myself folks.

And the verdict?: Paris is definitely my thing.

We arrived mid-day on a Thursday. Kara’s super cool friend Zannah (and now my super cool friend Zannah) lives in Paris and was kind enough to let us crash in her 200 square foot apartment. It was surprisingly cozy. Zannah was very kind to let us crash her beautiful life for a few days and to take us around town and feed us amazing food and speak French to people so we didn’t have to.

I am not really sure where to begin so I think I will start with the most visible symbol of Paris: the Eiffel Tower. I wasn’t planning to be awed by the Tower. I assumed it would be one of those things that is smaller in person and less exciting and grandiose than the movies make it out to be. Well, I stand corrected.

I fell in love with the Tower. I have no idea how it manages to be so seductive but it is. I was entranced from the start. We saw it during the day and then later all lit up at night.

We saw other important monuments like the Arc de Triomphe:

Notre Dame:

Sometimes self-portraits with 3 people are hard.

And the fruit stand from the movie Amelie:

Speaking of Montmartre, we spent a beautiful afternoon walking around its picturesque streets. Literally everywhere I looked was charming. I loved Sacre Coeur:

Mainly, I think, because the view from it looks like this:

Beautiful.

We also saw Paris on a boat ride down the Seine:

On the boat I loved to sit and look at views like this:

You should have seen the cameras go crazy on the boat when the Eiffel Tower came into view. People just love that tower. You would think though that they didn’t know you could take pictures up close. Kind of like this next shot in which Kara reminds me of the classic movie: “An American Tail“?

I call this picture, “Fievel goes to Paris”

Fievel goes to Paris after discovering there are in fact cats in America and the streets aren’t made with cheese after all. He should have known France has way better cheese anyway.

Next up: Versailles

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