Sunday, September 26, 2010

gnat turns 24!

after morning class and some quality time at the lib, i started off my celebrating with a walk over to the chicago city farm heirloom tomato stand. i was hoping to leave with heaps of large, juicy, colorful, misshapen heirloom tomatoes, but the walk over took significantly longer than i anticipated and this was all they had left:

worth it. these little guys accompanied me on the rest of the night's journeys,but only about half of them made it home.

then i hopped on the train to meet daniel for dinner at xoco, (the name of which i mumble ambiguously and pronounce slightly differently each time i say it) a rick bayless restaurant which serves almost exclusively tortas. a whole restaurant just for sandwiches - how could it be bad?

daniel tried the ahogada:

i had the milanese:

both were crazy good. my new personal goal is to try every torta they make (except the one that has mushrooms on it). two down, eleven to go.

also at xoco, we had fresh churros, ice cream, and the best damn hot chocolate i have had in my recent memory.

post dessert we met cara, aleck, kristin, and a few of my classmates at clark street ale house ("if you can't get into heaven, go straight to ale!"), which has one of the most intimidating beer lists i have ever encountered. our server was able to help me out with my selections, and in exchange we shared some tomatoes with her.

the night ended with a big surprise from cara and aleck:

cupcakes from more! i look sheepish because i basically ruined the surprise by breaking up the gathering before cara had the chance to reveal the takeout boxes she'd been carrying in her bag all night. oops?

coconut mango and (i believe) chocolate chocolate:

three months into my chicago residency, i know a small but mighty contingent of kickass people who came out and made it an awesome birthday. and there were sandwiches. and tomatoes. i win.

Monday, September 20, 2010

gnat looks at buildings. a lot of buildings. really excellent buildings.

but first, my first ever dim sum experience! crawfie, who shares my earth, wind, and fire birthday (tomorrow), was in town this weekend with friends and they were kind enough to let me tag along for some of their adventures. one of them involved steamed buns in a multitude of sweet and savory flavors at wow bao. yeah, you're reading that right.

unfortunately the following photograph fails to capture the variety of fillings this collection of seemingly identical little packages contained. just take my word for it - they were delicious.

now on to the buildings! i had long known/heard/read/suspected that chicago architecture was kind of a big deal. the city basically started from scratch after the 1871 fire, so chicago became a breeding ground for architects who saw it as a blank canvas. having formerly aspired to be an architect (if the whole medicine thing didn't work out) and having read the fountainhead about once a year since the tenth grade, i'd made a conscious effort to appreciate the architecture of chicago since arriving here. and as excellent and intriguing as this may be:

it's difficult to grasp the scope of just how excellent it really is if you don't know what you're looking at. enter the chicago line architectural cruise. (those of you who have seen my best friend's wedding may recall a scene where julia roberts and rupert everett are on a boat talking about her crazy plan. that boat is the chicago line architectural cruise).

basically you hop on this open top boat which takes you up and down the chicago river while a tiny, adorable older lady from the chicago architectural foundation tells you everything you ever wanted to know and more about each of the buildings along the river. you spend most of the hour and a half craning your neck upwards looking at buildings like this:

(trump tower, second tallest building in north america)

and this:
(marina city, otherwise known as the corn cob buildings)

and of course, this:
(sears tower, actually willis tower now but whatever. tallest building in north america. has a built in system so that it can clean itself four times a year. guess i don't blame window washers for not wanting to tackle this beast.)

you get the opportunity to look at a view like the one below and fully appreciate each individual piece of the puzzle that is the chicago skyline. each of the buildings has a story and is magnificent on its own, but even more beautiful as it is part of a collection.

i emerged from that hour and a half feeling just a little bit prouder to live in this beautiful city.

the night before the architecture tour, i knocked another item off my to do list which also involved looking at buildings, albeit from a little bit higher up. i joined crawfie and friends at the hancock signature lounge, which is on the 96th floor of the john hancock building just a block or two from my apartment.

to get up to the lounge, you cram into a little elevator with about nine hundred other people that jam in so tightly you're pretty sure the thing is not going to make it up 1,200 feet into the air. but it does, and you yawn several times during the trip because you're ascending so quickly that your ears keep popping.

then you get up there and you walk into the ladies room (unless you're a dude, in which case you wait in a reeeaaaallllly long line to get into the actual lounge) and this is the view from the window:

i'd say that isn't half bad, for a restroom.

the hancock is, i think, one of the defining features of the chicago skyline. looking out at the city from the signature lounge you can't help but feel like something is missing, and it's because something very big is missing - you're on top of it. still, i couldn't complain. the photo above doesn't begin to do the view justice.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

gnat takes a field trip

to evanston!

grad student orientation was this monday. since all of my classes are on the chicago campus, only about 6% of the day's activities were applicable to me. (in fact, only the welcome to northwestern speech and the post orientation happy hour were at all applicable to me.) still, i got to see a little bit of the main campus, and there was free lunch. so basically, win-win. here's a very poorly taken picture of "the arch." you can't see it, but it says northwestern university.

now, guys - i'm probably a little bit biased, but in my opinion ucla is just the prettiest damn college campus there is. the cream and brick buildings, the rolling green hills that are perfect for taking a nap or reading a book between classes... still, even i have to admit that there is no place at ucla that has a view like this:

i spent the better part of the afternoon reading at this spot. not bad, northwestern. not bad at all.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

gnat settles (back) in

here's a sampling of the things i've done since being back:

for my first dinner upon returning, i had a meal that (kinda) encompassed two chicago staples, courtesy of potash brothers market around the corner. (microwave) deep dish pizza and old style beer. old style is evidently a midwest thing and is big in chicago. upon googling it a few moments ago, i discovered that it is brewed by pabst brewing company. whether it's a step above or a step below PBR, i can't decide.

i procured carmine II from best buy down the street. their rationale is that it was more cost effective for geek squad to replace him than to try to fix him. RIP, carmine I.

i found PRODUCE!!! well, actually cara did while i was out of town. we went to stanley's produce market, which houses a cornucopia of fresh, beautiful, and (most importantly) cheap fruits and veggies. we are now the proud owners of a fridge full of happy green things.

and of course, red things. i still have no clue whether i'll be able to find these guys, the availability of which are a major factor in my happiness quotient, in a few months. i guess only time will tell.

we got a couch! and it is EXACTLY the same color as our walls. and our floors. and the rest of our furniture. remedying this situation with color accents is next up on my to-do list.

also on my to-do list are acquiring a kitchen table and chairs, more vigorous job hunting, and continuing my epic, now two month long battle with the wireless router. as of right now, we are tethered to within four feet of the ethernet jack. if you have any technologically savvy friends in the chicago area, please PLEASE send them my way.

gnat out.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

gnat prepares for her last day in california

yes, the one month mark of my california stay is fast approaching and with it my impending return to chicago. here's a sampling of the things i did while i was here:

i spent the first week fluishly and furiously (like fast and furious but with more phlegm) knitting from the couch in my parents' living room.

i made my way south to LA and back (twice) to see some of my favorite people and eat some of my favorite foods, including this pizza from enzo's in westwood:

it's just so damn satisfying.

i visited san diego and celebrated maya's birthday and larry's newly awarded permanent residency. (hooray for no longer having to worry that he'll get deported!)

can you find anything wrong with this picture?

i saw some free (well, almost free) music that would have caused 15 year old me to flip out at the del mar racetrack:

i collected some evidence that we have seasons here in california, too:

and, perhaps because i've begun to miss living right on top of a purveyor of silly flavored cupcakes, i baked.

blue moon orange with honey cream cheese frosting:

and irish car bomb cupcakes (guiness chocolate cake, whiskey ganache filling, bailey's buttercream frosting) for very late celebrating of daniel's birthday.

all of this and more! sadly most of the trip went undocumented, owing to carmine's accident early on. he couldn't be fixed, so tomorrow i'll pick up his replacement - carmine II. thank you, accidental damage warranty. also tomorrow, packing. not looking forward to that.

stay tuned, only one more day before gnat's chicago experiment is actually about chicago again.