Thursday, May 27, 2010

great (summer) expectations.

Memorial Day weekend is already here. (Unbelievable, I know.) And I'm determined to make something out of the 3 short months of beautiful weather that Chicago allows each year.

That said, here are my grand (and some practical) plans for the next few months:

. find my new apartment (!)
. bbq, bbq, bbq
. weekend camping trip with all the friends (yes, Leah - even you.)
. have security installed in my car (no repeats of last summer's fiasco, thankyouverymuch)
. road trip to Cedar Point with Todd (any any other takers)
. Saturdays at the beach
. make Justin come visit now that it's warm
. get a bicycle (? - I'm not yet convinced of this idea)
. get a bike rack for the Jeep
. weekend in NYC to see Shay and to check in on Kristen (and to see Promises, Promises)
. paint my (hypothetical) new apartment and attempt other nesting projects
. weekend home for Kate's dress fitting/food tasting/bridal shower
. head back to the gym
. camp down at the dunes and go to the drive-in movie theater in Valpo, IN
. spend a day on Dom's boat in Michigan (he doesn't know this yet.)
. Cubs games: friends, beers, sunshine, hot dogs
. go to some of the Movies in the Parks

Totally do-able.

I'll be crossing them off as they are completed.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

opening night.

Todd's latest show opens TONIGHT at the Victory Gardens Greenhouse Theater. So I threw together this little ensemble for the evening's festivities.

opening night. by staceyerin

That's my new Tranquil Flow Tunic that I got on major sale at Anthropologie last month. (Originally $118!) I am in LOVE.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

the vera best.

I have long been a lover of Vera Neumann, and all I really know about her is her signature and her printed scarves.

image from theluckyfish esty shop

I have several beauties that I scored at resale shops and thrift stores in bold and bright colors and graphic designs. They are some of my favorites that I own and the first thing I look for when I walk into vintage boutiques. So you can imagine how big my eyes got when I discovered a whole line of Vera inspired items on the Anthropologie website. How this had gone unnoticed before is beyond me. I'll take one of everything. Especially this:

sketched danios dress by we love vera

Is $1700 too much to spend on a rug? What about when it looks like this:

waves rug exclusively at anthropologie

I love when a vintage style icon is given new life. (Jackie O? Meet Michelle Obama.)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

always the bridesmaid.

Siri Vivien Leigh Dress

Off to our bridesmaid dress appointment for Kate's wedding! Tonight we're on a mission: we're looking for THIS EXACT DRESS, but without the price tag. Wish us luck!

Monday, May 17, 2010

hot diggity dawgs.

I'm on a first name basis with the guys that own and work at the hot dog place down the street from my office.

Franks 'N' Dawgs opened earlier this spring, replacing a sub-par italian beef place (called, of all things, What's The Beef?). Honestly, anything could have moved into that space and I'd have been happy. We have a lackluster selection of walkable lunch options, so when something closes you cross your fingers that it's place will be filled speedily. (We're still feeling the sting from the October closing of the Jewel's-version-of-Whole Foods grocery store Urban Fresh that now sits vacant right across the street.) So when I noticed the paper had been taken down off of the WTB windows after what seemed like only a month, I stepped right in expecting to find yet another Chicago style beef or hot dog counter-service restaurant.

Let me tell you friends, this is no ordinary Chicago style hot dog joint. In fact, they do not even serve a classic "Chicago" dog. Not being a huge fan of the pepper-onion-relish-tomato-mustard-covered... thing... I was excited to see options with names like "Cheese Head" (sheboygan sausage, caramelized onions, grilled portabellos and smoked gouda), "Dirty Dawg" (andouille sausagewith dirty rice, hush puppies and cherry tomato relish) and "Spoiled Brat" (brat, red cabbage, beer mustard and red pepper relish). Most of their sausages are made in-house and the (deliciously crispy and buttery) buns were designed especially for them by a local bakery. And the fries (oh, the fries...) are cut and fried up fresh.

But I haven't even gotten to the good stuff yet. Every month their chef (yes, they employ a head chef to create their gourmet dogs) features a new creation, most of which I've seen have made their way onto the daily menu because they are just too delicious to forget about. One of these happens to be in my Top 2: affectionately called the Turdawgen. That's right. It's the Franks 'N' Dawgs version of that meal-within-a-meal, the Turducken. Turkey & date sausage, crispy duck confit, herb garlic aioli, house pickled onion relish and pickled carrots. Chew on that for a minute (pun intended). Note: My other fav is the Dirty Dawg.

But wait! There's more. Franks 'N' Dawgs has a heart too. Each month they feature a "Charitable Dog" and donate a portion of the proceeds to a selected charity. (That's how the Dirty Dawg came to be in March, with proceeds going to PAWS.) They've also got a vegetarian option called the FU (marinated tofu, grilled eggplant relish & portabello with salsa verde) which sounds mouth watering even to a meat eater like me. Of course they still offer plain dogs and chili dogs. And nobody scoffs at me when I order a plain dog and go straight for the KETCHUP. (I don't like mustard. So sue me, Chicago.)

Franks 'N' Dawgs is located at 1863 N Clybourn Ave (just north of North Ave.) in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago, IL. I'm telling you, you won't be disappointed. I may or may not have sampled over half of their menu. Their service is terrific and the restaurant is always clean. I pop in almost daily for (at least) an afternoon soda and a brief chat. I think this place might be my CHEERS... where everybody knows my name.

all images from Franks 'N' Dawgs

Friday, May 14, 2010

mini boats get huge air.

One of the GREATEST things we did on our vacation was a snorkel trip with Mini Boat Adventures. In the weeks months leading up to our trip, I spent hours reading articles on (An amazing resource put together by a local couple who basically spend their days discovering and writing about awesome things to do/see/eat in Puerto Rico.) While searching for good off-shore snorkeling sites, I came across an article titled "Mini Boats, Big Fun!" I read on...

I'm really not a big snorkel-tour person. Usually they take you out on large boats, are super crowded and require you to wear life-jackets in the water at all times (Um, how am I supposed to swim down and look at the fishies up-close-and-personal if I'm wearing a life-jacket?). Not so with Mini Boat Adventures. As soon as I read the phrase "pilot your own mini boat", we may as well have just booked our reservation that moment. The tour takes you out in a convoy of 6-8 13 foot inflatable hard-bottom mini boats, each with a capacity of 4 people. But, if there are only two in your party (like us), then you get YOUR OWN BOAT! Nobody cramping your style here. After you arrive and check in, they give everyone a brief 20 minute overview of the islands you will be visiting and how to operate your boat.

Now, I've driven a boat before. I mean, I was driving our boat when I was 5 years old. Piece of cake, right? Well, apparently when your boat is only 13 feet long and the waves are 4 feet high out in the middle of the ocean, there is a bit of a difference. The idea of the tour is that one of the guide boats is in the front and the other boats follow inside each others' wake to break the waves a bit. Well, heading out of the marina Todd and I were in last position and the few boats in front of us were taking a while to get the hang of it. So the rear guide boat waved us around to go catch up with the first few boats who, by this time were little orange dots in the distance... no wake to ride in. We were hitting waves head on, splashing water all over. Not to mention the fact that we had all the weight in the back of the boat, so every wave we hit sent us soaring straight up into the air. This thing handled like a jet ski! Finally, we figured out that if Todd sat in the front we would level out better in the air. The first few minutes were pretty hairy, and I think at one point Todd firmly believed we were going to die in a freak mini-boat accident. But we got the hang of it, and by the end of the trip Todd was driving at full speed across the sea back to the marina. (I was so proud.)

The snorkeling (Oh yeah, this was a snorkeling trip, wasn't it?) was fantastic. The islands they took us to were just beautiful and they gave us time at each one to go ashore and explore a little bit. We stayed in deep-ish waters, probably 15-25 feet, and the visibility was excellent. (Bonus: No life jackets necessary, except when driving the boats of course.) And I finally got the chance to try out my birthday present that my dad got me last year - the Olympus Stylus Tough 6000. This puppy took GREAT pictures, in and out of the water. I'm usually a Canon/Sony kind of girl, but I was totally impressed by this camera. And we had the best time swimming down for a few action shots. And it can even take videos under the water. (Even if we weren't taking it under water, this was the perfect camera for a boat. There was no stress about keeping the camera dry. I can vividly recall my mom saying "Don't splash me! I'm holding the camera!" and "Don't push me in the pool! I'm holding the camera!")

I have to say, I was so proud of Todd on this trip. He took to the water like a fish. Between swimming down to the bottom to look for lobsters hiding in the coral and captaining a boat for the first time in his life, I'd say this experience was quite the milestone. And my heart was all aflutter when he said those four little words... "Let's get a boat."

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

life's a beach.

Planning this vacation was not exactly a piece of cake. It's no exaggeration when I say I started planning our trip to Puerto Rico last November. Originally the idea was to go in January for a winter getaway. Then it was pushed to February, then March, then finally we were able to schedule it for May. All the while I was spending every spare moment searching for the cheapest flights (on our ever-changing travel dates) and scouring sites for the perfect place to stay. We I decided that since we were staying for a full week, it would be more cost effective to find a small vacation rental in lieu of a hotel. And, to be honest, I prefer that over a big fussy hotel anyway. But there were still all kinds of other questions: Did we want to stay in San Juan, or would it be too touristy? What other do the other cities have to offer? How close can we get to the beach? Do we want a place with a kitchen so we can cook some of our own meals to save money? I must have looked at dozens of places, and Todd's inbox was flooded with the options I kept sending him. Eventually I became so overwhelmed with the delays and the starting-overs that I was ready to throw in the towel and cancel the trip. In swooped Todd, and within minutes he had sent me a link to a little place called Coqui del Mar. And we never looked back.

image via Trip Advisor

With only 6 units, this guest house is quiet and private. The main building has two stories, with two units on the first floor and two on the second. (There is a third unit upstairs where the managers, Neal and Noyda, live full time.) Behind this building is a smaller one story building with two more units. There are two small shared patios, (one of which is shaded by a large mango tree - pictured below), a bbq, an outdoor shower for rinsing the salt and sand off after hours at the beach, and bikes, beach chairs, umbrellas, and boogie boards for guests to use. We stayed in Unit C - "La Luna" - in the rear building. It's a nice sized studio unit with a kitchen, a couch and a queen sized bed. The perfect amount of space for the two of us to settle into for a week.

The neighborhood, Punta Las Marias, is just east of Old San Juan. Far enough away from the hustle and bustle of the cruise ships and resorts, but close enough to things like gas stations and grocery stores for our first visit to the island. We were literally one (very short) block from the nearest beach, which pleased me very much. Coqui del Mar id two houses behind the wite and red one you see in the picture below.

If you ever find yourself in the San Juan area - whether for a few days or an extended stay - I highly recommend considering Coqui del Mar. For more information and photos, check out their website (photos of all the units are on their Reservations page) and their listing on (which is how we Todd found them in the first place!)

You can also read our review of Coqui del Mar on!

uncredited photos are my own. click the images for a larger view.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

85 degrees and sunny skies.

I'm overwhelmed by the idea of a single "post-Puerto Rico" blog entry, so I think I'll spread it out over a few days and write about some of our adventures and the wonderful place we stayed.

The trip was just what we both needed. And I'm happy to say that even though we had a computer in our room, email checking was rare and facebook was non-existant. Our cell phones worked, but mine stayed locked in the safe and Todd's was used mainly for getting us un-lost during our many island road trips. I didn't think about work or apartments once. We spent our mornings sleeping in, and our afternoons at the beach and/or exploring. It only seemed to rain in the early morning or late at night. And I soaked in as much warmth HEAT and sunshine as possible. (Which was a good idea, especially because it has been 50 degrees and rainy ever since we got back.)

This photo was taken somewhere between Luquillo and San Juan on the northeastern corner of Puerto Rico on our way back to the apartment. We had driven out to find a strip of food kiosks that I had heard about. There were about 60 food stands lined up between the highway and the ocean. We went to #52 - "Mi Favorito". I had two empenadillas (one lobster, one conch) and Todd tried the blood sausage. (I did not. I couldn't get past the word "blood".) You can read more about the Luquillo "kioscos" here.

It was only the second day and already we looked settled into beach life... Who am I kidding? I was settled in the moment we stepped off the plane.