Week #43 – Spotlight: Pumpkin Carving

My friend Gina and her husband Clint recently moved back to Chicago after spending two years in New York (yay!). I was excited when Gina invited me over to their new condo for pumpkin carving on a warm fall afternoon.

I arrived with two pumpkins, some pumpkin doughnut holes, and lots of excitement (I haven’t carved pumpkins in years!). Gina had a well-rounded spread of fall goodies, including hot cider, chili, and lots of cookies.

Gina’s sister Lauren and our friend Jill were there when I arrived, and Gina’s friend Danielle joined us soon after.

We headed to the backyard to carve pumpkins, and I had an idea in mind from Pinterest: pumpkins designed using a cordless drill! I asked Jill to bring hers, and let me tell you, I think this is the only way I’ll “carve” pumpkins from here on out.

A cordless drill is not only easy to use, but it’s precise and clean. On my small pumpkin, I chose to drill our monogram and a heart. On my large pumpkin, I simply drilled holes all over for a polka dot look.

When I got home, I put battery-operated tea lights in the pumpkins, and I’m so pleased with the outcome.

If you haven’t carved your pumpkin yet and have (or can borrow) a drill, try it for yourself!20131027-140723.jpg20131027-140751.jpg

Week #35 – Water Taxi & Lao Sze Chuan

Nǐ hǎo from Chinatown!

Honestly, this one goes down as one of my favorite things I’ve done for the blog so far! I’ve had a water taxi ride and visiting Chinatown on my to do list since the beginning of the blog, and I couldn’t have picked a better group to check these activities off the list.

Bridget, Trey, Lauren, Bill, Gina, Erin, and I all met at the Madison Street water taxi station around noon to take the water taxi down to Chinatown. For $5 (each way), we could take in the beautiful sights of the city…on a water taxi!

We boarded the boat and walked toward the front to get the best view. I was worried about the boat being a little rocky, but rest assured, these taxis are smooth sailing. We caught up as we headed south on the river, posed for photos (see below!), and enjoyed the hot summer day.

Quickly we arrived at the Chinatown stop, where we were greeted by a huge Chinese structure (which we posed by on our way back to the loop). We walked through the winding residential streets until we arrived at the heart of Chinatown, where there’s a square, and lots of shops and restaurants.

Not only is Lauren the coordinator (and mom) of the group, she and Bill lived in Singapore for two years and traveled extensively around Asia, so I gave her the task of choosing our lunch spot. Lao Sze Chuan was her choice, and I couldn’t have been happier. Recognized by the Michelin Bib Gourmand, Lao Sze Chuan is one of the highest rated Chinese restaurants in Chicago!

Natalie and Pat met us there, and we started off our meal with a spicy cabbage appetizer (brought to every table, like bread) and green tea. We ordered Tsingtao beer, per Lauren and Bill’s suggestion, and it was refreshing on that warm day. For appetizers, we snacked on crab rangoon and pot stickers, and for the main courses, we had a little bit of everything: sesame chicken, sauteed green beans, shrimp with broccoli, fish, crispy spicy chicken, mongolian beef, spinach, orange chicken, and I know I’m missing more. The best thing about going to Chinatown with a bigger group is that we were able to sample so many different flavors. And what meal isn’t complete without dessert, a.k.a. a fortune cookie! Now, I don’t know about you, but I am superstitious and won’t read my fortune until I’ve completely eaten my cookie. My fortune was: Time is the wisest counselor…in bed. Don’t you add “in bed” to your fortunes? Once you start, you won’t stop, I promise. 😉

After our delicious meal (I will definitely return!!!), we wandered around Chinatown, looking in the shops and getting lost in the summer heat. When we returned to the square, we took pictures by the different Chinese zodiac signs: Erin, Gina, Pat, Natalie, and I are dogs; Bridget and Lauren are pigs; Trey is a monkey; and Bill is a horse. (In no other context is that sentence appropriate!)

From there, the majority of us headed to the water taxi to return home. Seriously, before this hot summer weather goes away, take a water taxi ride down to Chinatown for a bite at Lao Sze Chuan. It’s like a really inexpensive architecture tour with a good meal in between. I promise, you won’t be disappointed. I know I wasn’t!

Chicago Water Taxi

Lao Sze Chuan
2172 S. Archer
Chinatown

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Week #29 – Robin Thicke Concert at Taste of Chicago

I couldn’t figure out how to write this post without gushing about Robin Thicke, so I decided I should just write him a note.

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Dear Robin,

One fateful morning I was walking to work when I saw a sign right in front of my office that you’d be performing at the Petrillo Music Shell at the Taste of Chicago (Butler Field). Coincidence? I think not. How could I refuse?!?

It’s important to note that I’ve been enjoying your music for quite some time now. “When I Get You Alone” is still one of my favorites, but I’m more vested than just your hits on the radio. “Complicated” is great, and “I Need Love” is so smooth. I couldn’t wait to hear these and many more at the concert!

I haven’t been to the Taste of Chicago since reversible tube tops were popular, but no crowd was too big to keep me from seeing you perform. My friends Lauren, Bridget, their significant others (God bless them) and my brother (what a guy) joined me!

Estelle was a great opening act—but who are we kidding? Everyone was waiting for you.

The weather was extra hot and the sun was high (somehow I got a tan from my sunglasses), but your smooth voice, charismatic personality, and charming smile (did you get that from Dr. Seaver?) seemed to make it ten times hotter! And let me tell you, the ladies around us were definitely feeling it too. (It seemed like some of the men were pretty jealous, but I’m sure you’re used to that…) And I heard Ashton and Mila were there! Are they your friends? Rahm was really getting down too (see the video!). They have excellent taste in music!

I love the song “Blurred Lines”, and was extremely glad that you decided to open—and close!—the show with that one. It’s the song of the summer! May I ask, what does rhyme with hug me? I’d love further clarification on that one. 😉

But before you get misled about my feelings for you, I have to confess: I’m married. And, obviously, so are you. (Your son is adorable, too!) So for now, let’s just agree that you’ll keep making beautiful music, and I’ll keep listening.

Thank you for the wonderful concert at the Taste. I was glad to be back after so many years! Be sure to let me know when you’re in Chicago next.

With love and admiration,

Second City Gal

Taste of Chicago
Grant Park
The Loop

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