Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Western Vacation - Day 3: Ghost Ranch and an Evening in Santa Fe

Day three of our trip was probably the best Monday I've had in a very long time. We started with a perfect breakfast at Cafe Abiquiu. I had poached eggs on top of corn cakes, topped with a creamy chile sauce, goat cheese, basil, and bacon. O.M.G. If you are into spicy breakfasts you would love this one. After photographing some of the local fauna at the Abiquiu Inn (grasshoppers and lizards) we headed off to Ghost Ranch. They have a great hiking trail there that is free and open to the public. It is not terribly difficult but I would not recommend this hike to grandma.

We started at the bottom (photo on the left, see Chimney Rock in the background?) and ended up at the top, right next to Chimney Rock (photo on the right). It was about 3 miles, roughly 2 hours, round trip. We saw quite a bit wildlife, though on a smaller scale that I had hoped (I really wanted to see a mountain goat :) and, as you can imagine, some beautiful scenery. Click here for the panorama. And then click through the photos.

a lizard on the trail

I had remembered to put sunscreen on all exposed parts of my body part except my feet. And I was not wearing traditional hiking footwear. My chacos helped me get to the top! Miraculously, the tops of my feet were not burned. Steve had somehow missed a small crescent shaped spot on his neck when applying sun screen. That is how he got his Native American name - Red Moon Neck. He wouldn't let me take photos of it.

the magnificent chaco sandals

After that I had the fabulous idea to visit Ojo Caliente, a local hot spring. My vision of a natural hot spring (a small dirt trail leading to a a cluster of rocky, warm pools surrounded by a wooded forest area) and what we actually encountered (a resort with a restaurant and a handful of kitschy, tourist-trap shops) were two totally different things. I might have paid to soak in the pool of diverted natural hot spring water had I packed my own beach towel. I should have done my research. Anyhow we had a nice lunch. I think I might want to go back there some time.

Then it was on to Santa Fe! We checked into our room at Hotel Santa Fe, a very nice place that was just a quick jaunt on foot to the plaza area. I wanted to go swimming right away, but Steve wanted to shop. So we started wandering around town. First we found Kowboyz, a vintage western wear place. It was somewhat pricey but the woman gave us a good deal on some things. I bought a pretty skirt and Steve picked out an elephant skin belt with a beautiful western belt buckle (photos to come) and a vintage shirt. There were tons and tons and TONS of other nice looking shops. Santa Fe is definitely a shopping town.

We eventually made our way over to the Plaza where there was a live concert taking place. A beer seemed in order so we decided to go into a place called the Ore House for some libations. It had a large veranda upstairs over looking the plaza that seemed like the best place to enjoy some drinks and the live music. Steve had one of the best margaritas I've ever tasted and I had a local beer. However the service was TERRIBLE. I'm definitely going to yelp about that place.

Finally we enjoyed a late dinner at Tomasita's, a recommendation from Kaitlyn (a native Santa Fe-an). It was really good. We consumed large quantities of margaritas, blue tamales, and various desserts, all served by an extremely entertaining native Chicagoan who had been waiting tables in Santa Fe since 1990. If you see Adrian at Tomasita's, tell him we said hello.

a view from Chimney Rock

Busy Bee

Since I've been back from vacation, not only have I been catching up at work and trying to get back into my biking routine, I have also been visiting with several awesome friends this week. The weekend was spent doing chores and unpacking from vacation (and picking up lots of crap in the yard - will explain later.) We attended a going away party for our friends Troy (on the left) and Sara who are moving back to Michigan. (Good luck, you guys!) And also managed to cram in a long overdue dinner with Craig and Latha. Then Monday rolled around, and I had the opportunity to spend the evening having drinks at the top of the Hancock building with Rachel and Lisa who were in town from Albuquerque for a conference. I had originally wanted to visit them while we were in New Mexico but we did not make it as far as Albuquerque on that trip. We had a LOT to talk about since I had not seen Rachel in about eight years!..... pretty much since high school.

hanging out with Lisa and Rachel on Mich Ave

On Tuesday my friend and former neighbor, the marvelous Brittany, came to Northwestern for lunch and she brought me an entire picnic - sparkling water, tuna pasta salad with dill and grilled asparagus, and a homemade plum tart! It was a nice little surprise. And I could go ON and ON about the tart!!

a picnic with Britt

Other than that we are trying to get ready for yet ANOTHER trip this weekend to Cincinnati. And I've been helping Steve a lot with some art things that have been going on...

I promise to blog about the rest of the vacation soon, folks.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Stay Tuned...

Days 3, 4, & 5 of the vacation coming soon! I promise!

A lot of stuff going on here... :)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Western Vacation - Day 2: from Denver to Abiquiu

Sunday morning brought some sunny skies to Denver and breakfast at a wonderful vegetarian/vegan bakery (Watercourse) with Joe. I was too busy enjoying myself to take any photos of Joe, Andrea, or Putza the black kitty. But you should definitely check out the Watercourse menu and considering visiting there if you are in the Denver area. I recommend the Amsterdam Hash - awesome vegetarian gravy! Joe let us ride some of their spare bikes to breakfast, which was an experience all in itself. (I really wish I had a photo of Steve in the Dale Earnhardt bike helmet! ha ha ha ha)

Once our bellies were filled we were on the road. New Mexico welcomed us with not one, but two full strength hail storms - another aspect of the strange weather, I guess. We went off the main highway for a more scenic route along 64. At first the landscape was very woody with lots of evergreens. Not much different from places I've seen in Colorado. We passed through Cimarron near the Philmont National Boy Scout Ranch that my dad has often spoke of. He spent two weeks there as a kid with his boy scout troop, and there he celebrated his 14th birthday. In Cimarron we stopped for lunch in a leaky rural diner. I can't even remember the name of it but there was only one waiter, resembling the truck driver type. And when the rain started coming down again, he quickly began arranging buckets under holes where water was coming through the ceiling and dripping off the chandeliers. ha ha - adventure dining, eXtreme dining... I gues that's what you could call it. I think Anthony Bourdain would have been proud of us. Not because the food was good, because it wasn't - but because we took a chance.

We saw lots of elk crossing the road, and there were several places to pull over the Yaris and take photographs.

After passing through the Sangre de Christo Mountains, we found the landscape I had always imagined when I thought of New Mexico - dry, scrubby, rocky, and red. As the sun began setting we found our way to Abiquiu in Chama Valley near the San Juan Mountain Range. The Abiquiu Inn was a great place for us to stay. There is a wonderful gift shop and a little gallery inside. You can also book tours of Georgia O'Keeffe's home and studio nearby. This is what originally drew us to the area, but we decided to explore the landscape Georgia fell in love with instead of the studio tour. We took one of the economy rooms at the inn, which was very comfortable, except the tv did not work. Cafe Abiquiu turned out to be an excellent little restaurant, although we were initially disappointed in their lack of libations. It turned out that we were too exhausted for tv and alcohol. We were both asleep by 10pm in order to rest up for the hiking trip the next day.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Western Vacation - Day 1: Denver and Boulder

Well we are back from our vacation so of course I have to blog about the whole darn thing. Last Saturday Steve and I woke up before dawn (or, as my Auntie would say "the crack of screech") to catch our cab to the airport. The initial reason for this trip to the Denver area was our friend Elizabeth and Ben's wedding in Boulder. In order to make the most of our vacation days we decided to fly in on the day of the wedding, but everything had to go just right in order for us to make it to the wedding on time - fly in, get luggage and rental car, drive to Joe and Andrea's (where we were staying), 30 mins to change our clothes, then drive to the wedding.

This created a challenge with how I would do my hair. I didn't want wear my every day hair to the wedding. Plus I'm getting tired of my hair cut at the moment. I knew I wouldn't have time for washing and blow drying and curling and setting and whatnot after we arrived in Denver. So I opted for the pin curl! I washed my hair before the flight and it only took about 20 mins to put up in about 30 bobby pins. Yes, it did look kind of crazy all day walking around airports and such, but I didn't care. The other option was to tie my leopard handkerchief around my head in 40's-housewife/aunt-jemima style, but that didn't seem like the best idea.

It also created another problem - my hair pins went off in the metal detector! So I had my first pat down at the airport. It was a little bit scary, but the female security officer was very nice and I was happy to comply if it meant that our airports were safer. Just a few moments of discomfort for me. Okay, enough about my hair. It ended up looking okay. See photo on the left.

For some reason our flight to Denver was not direct. We had a 2 hour lay over in Oklahoma City - a place neither of us had been before. First of all the official name of the airport is WILL ROGERS WORLD. I'm not kidding. It is a smallish airport. But the people working there were so nice. They told us to "Come back and see me again, hon!" when we ordered our lunch. So I guess I have to fly back there for lunch again, someday...

Our connecting flight was slightly delayed, giving us even less time to get ready for the wedding. We arrived and left Joe and Andrea's place in a tornado of suitcases and hairpins and pulled up to the wedding location about 5 minutes after it was supposed to start. Luckily for us, things like that don't go as smoothly as planned and the ceremony didn't start until about 30 mins later. (I'm sure we will experience this next year at our own wedding!)

The ceremony was very simple and beautiful. We've been to quite a few weddings in the past couple of years and it's so great to see my friends making these commitments using so many different customs and things. Elizabeth and Ben's wedding started with all of the guests tying up colorful ribbons as a symbol of our wishes to them starting their new life together. Above is Anne and Jeff (left) and Elizabeth's stepdad, Eli (right). There were no attendants - just Elizabeth and Ben - and they were married by a yoga instructor. It seems like there would be a better word than instructor... master? teacher? Anyway, it was very spiritual. It was very serious, and then at the part of the ceremony where the couple drank wine out of the same cup, Ben pulled some silly straws out of his jacket! It was the perfect touch for them. They are both such fun-loving people. And then Ben broke the glass, which is an old Jewish tradition.

The weather was unseasonably cold for Boulder this time of year - chilly and wet and in the mid 50's! But during the ceremony the sun broke through the clouds and the picturesque mountain scenery came alive just for Elizabeth and Ben. And the rushing river in the background added the perfect touch for a beautiful union of my two beloved friends.

Not to mention it was a great opportunity for me to break out my purple velvet blazer and wear it with my new red shoes. And Steve looked great in his new blazer and the shirt I picked out for him :)

After that we all wandered over to a couple of heated tents in the yard, where we enjoyed great food and old friends! I got to visit and hug and laugh with some of my favorite Dean Hall girls (Sally, Anne, and Holly) and even one that I had heard a lot about, but had never met before (Sabrina!). This was the first wedding that I attended where quinoa was served.... so yummy.

Following the reception was an after party at a place in downtown Boulder. An open bar and plenty of dancing with Anne and Jane (Ben's mom!) So fun. Unfortunately, Steve and I were pretty exhausted from our journey so we headed back to Joe and Andrea's place, where they graciously put us up for the night, and we slept like boulders :)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Morning Meltdown

This morning I had a bit of a meltdown. Just one of those days, ya know? And no I do not have any pictures to document it.

It ranked right up there with that one evening in Ann Arbor, but wasn't quite as bad. The night I am referring to is the one in which we were two broke people living in a tiny, stuffy studio with our cat on Ann St, where Steve practiced his oil painting. My best friend came to visit for a few nights and we decided to go out to an Italian place for dinner, mostly because I had found this coupon for a buy-one-get-one-free meal! First one waitress splattered me with olive oil. Then when I went to the bathroom there was black water bubbling and spurting out of the drain in the floor. And after our meal, our waitress told us that we couldn't use the coupon even though we had shown it to her prior to ordering our entrees. The only thing that kept me going was knowing I had these great pasta leftovers to take home. But that was ruined by the sudden downpour that started on the walk home, causing me to slip and fall while running, spilling my leftovers across the sidewalk, and to break the handle of the purse I was using, which used to be my grandmother's. I ended up in our suffocating studio, wet and wrapped up in towels, crying because I had no creamy sauce with sun dried tomatoes.... only a broken purse.

I think of this night often when bad things happen to me.

So in retrospect and in light of reviewing these horrible events, I suppose this morning wasn't so terrible but it seemed enough to push me over the edge. After I was already pissed about my hair, as I was leaving for work, the zipper on my purse came right off, and then when I went to ride my bike, the chain somehow was dangling down and pedaling wasn't getting me anywhere. I threw my bike to ground and started crying. But Steve came to the rescue. We drove to work and then I went and bought a new purse. And, it turned out, my hair didn't look so bad after all :)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

cat pee..... again

Elvis peed on the other chair this morning..... grrrrrrr!@#$%^&*

He must be stressed about having a house guest for the week. Little does he know that after the house guest leaves, we will be leaving for vacation. He's going to be really upset..... :(

He needs some extra love.

Josh is HERE!

My cousin Josh is here for the week on business. He is probably my favorite cousin :) When he isn't working, he and steve are drinking beer and playing Grand Theft Auto IV.

We've had lots of family visiting this summer...... I guess I must be the best hostess EVER.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Stitch n Pitch

Last week I dragged a bunch of my mates to an annual event on the south side of Chicago called Stitch n Pitch. It is a fundraiser as well as a fun-raiser :) You go watch the White Sox play and you knit (get it - sox and socks) and drink beer and eat hot dogs. Though, you don't have to knit socks, you can knit anything you want. And you don't even really have to knit at all. Only 2/7 (that's two sevenths, a commonly used fraction) of my group was actually knitting at the game. This year we tailgated, which I thought would save us money, but I ended spending more somehow. Coincidentally, the Sox were playing the Tigers, so I was cheering Detroit, but they lost anyway. The project I was working was also very sports-related.... but that's on the DL for now because it's a surprise for someone! Though the photos reveal a sneak peek. If you click on the photo you will see more.

Monday, August 11, 2008


A couple of weekends ago my dad decided he wanted to visit us in Chicago. He brought an entourage consisting of his girlfriend (Cheryl), his dog (Rosie), and my sister (Catherine). At the last minute they also decide to bring one of Cheryl's daughters. Initially I reacted the way that Monkey would to another cat being brought into the house, hissing at the thought of someone I didn't know invading my family's weekend. And on top of that they brought her dog! It seemed for a moment that we were headed for disaster, but I managed to remain calm on the outside and we actually ended up having a lot of fun! I thought I was a great hostess. I got to know Cheryl a little bit more, which was nice. And I really enjoyed spending time with Tasha, her daughter. And the dog (see Annie on the left) stole my heart the minute I petted her spotted back and looked into her blue eye and brown eye. She was very sweet, not incredibly barky, and did not harrass the cats, but had a healthy curiosity and fear of them.

I didn't get to take any pictures of us humans but I took some of Annie, since she was so darn cute. The weather was very humid and hot and it rained on Saturday morning, so we were stuck inside. It was a bit cramped in our place with six people, two dogs, two cats, and a turtle. After the rain quit we went up to Evanston to the Ethnic Arts Festival and it was great. The dogs loved it, too. They had such a great time that they slept for the rest of the evening. For dinner we all piled into the Subaru and drove down to Lincoln Park to go to the Kingston Mines blues club.

Elvis and Monkey did pretty well with all of this commotion. But they definitely were happy to see the dogs and the people go.

Speaking of le chats, I have been trying to get them on a better diet and have been doing all of this research into what nature intended for them to eat. Carbs are definitely bad. Most of the dry food on the market is full of carbs. That's why Monkey is so fat. My friend Erin is a big advocate of the raw diet for her cats and it makes sense. However, most vets do not really know much about it and therefore cannot give you any advice. You have to do your own research.

For now we are ixnaying the idea because Monkey's tummy has been really sensitive lately. Aside from litterbox issues she was not acting right, hiding under the bed, and not snuggling! But now she is feeling much better. We went to see Dr. Miller at the Uptown Animal Hospital (who, by the way, is an Albion alum) and she is having me give Monkey an antibiotic. All of you with cats know that this is not a fun process, but I think Monkey and I are both getting better at it, and it's almost over.

Monkey tries out for

Elvis has issues of his own. He recently peed on one of the chairs again. The first time in months. And i have to spray the thing almost every day just to try to get rid of the smell.... grrrr....

About the only creature that is doing well in our household is turtle. His shell has molted producing a lovely new shiny shell underneath. He also enjoys noshing on some fancy krill snacks every other day or so. If you click here you can see more photos of him.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Headphone Tea

I just dunked one of my headphones into mug of tea..... and they still work!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

New Favorite Indian place

I know a lot of people have said that the best Indian place in Chicago is some fancy place down town.... and even though I've never been there, I just don't see how the millions of places on Devon could not be at the top of the list.

Last night Steve and one of my vegetarian friends, SKM, and I visited Arya Bhavan on Devon near Campbell. It's all vegetarian. There was not a soul in the place except one waiter, but we had heard our friends rave about it so we thought we'd give it a try. We had taj mahal beer, spicy samosas filled with lentils and potatoes. For our entrees we shared a garlic nan (soooooo yummy), mutter paneer (peas and cheese in a rich spiced sauce), avial (vegetables in a coconut and chile sauce), and tadka dal (lentils with ginger and garlic). Everything was delicious. The service was on the slow side but it's what I expect from places in this area. We definitely did not receive poor service. The prices were comparable to other things in the neighborhood. Not expensive or cheap. The only things I would change about this place are the table clothes - trade out the circa 1989 pink and black paint splashes for crisp, clean white linens and maybe red napkins. And the music was down way to low to be a part of the experience. Crank it up, please! I heard they have a buffet on the weekends, so you will definitely see me here again.

Another notable place that we have discovered and liked is Chopal, on Devon near Bell. I believe it's Pakistani food. Lots of meats and sauces with several vegetarian options. The inside is really fun and it decorated very well. Don't count on drinking here though. Alcohol is prohibited for religious reasons. However the first two times we went it was really cheap. And the next time it was more expensive. It's kind of hard to figure out what is what on the bill. The service is really slow. So don't go if you are in a rush. In general I like this place - good food and atmosphere.