A trip to Chicago (we technically stayed in the suburb of Naperville where I went to high school with my family, but we made it downtown nearly every day of the week) was the perfect start to a fun, hot summer ahead. Firsts for Shaun: Cubs game (pictured above)… Firsts for me: Taking Lyfts instead of cabs or the L (first guy was great…. second alright…third had no idea where he was going… but it was worth a try!).
Our main priority, of course, was a mouthwatering tour of Chicago’s top pizza parlors — as based on the Zucco opinion in the year’s we’ve lived there, ha. Three spots you can’t miss? Gino’s East — get the deep dish! — for the crust… Giordano’s (deep dish!) for the sauce… and Lou Malnati’s — thin crust only if you plan to spring for a chocolate chip cookie pie for dessert.
When we weren’t eating, we were mostly laughing or singing. Laughing at Second City’s game night — a less expensive way to enjoy the funniest folks in the 312… and singing along at Kingston Mine’s, a blues club recommended to us by three people we work with. It didn’t disappoint!
We also packed in the Art Institute, plus a couple nights out exploring downtown Naperville and a lot of time spent with my family. But even with the nonstop sightseeing and epic eating to-do-list (Portillo’s! Potbelly! Pizza!)… it was a relaxing vacation. We made time to sleep in and I loved sitting on my family’s deck like I would with my mom every day after high school, waking up with a hot cup of coffee and a dose of news from the paper that got me into this business.
May sweeps have started in TV Land — which means a lot of (good) work to do. Shaun and I decided to take a quick — and let me tell you, I mean quick — trip to Denver to blow off some steam.
Shaun’s loved Dave Chapelle since Robin Hood: Men in Tights, so when he saw he was headed to the Mile High City he swiped up tickets fast (a smart move…they sold out in an hour). We left ABQ around 2p Sunday, took gorgeous back mountain rounds through New Mexico and Colorado, and made it to Denver just in time for a yummy dinner at Lucy before the show started.
Josh Blue surprised us by showing up too. After five hours of hilarity, four hours of sleep and two shots of espresso, we sped back to New Mexico just in time for Shaun to get to work by 1:30. It was the perfect break to kick off what will likely be a hectic month…and a good precursor to a more major road trip we’re making in June!
Someday I will master baking a fruit pie that looks as pretty as it tastes. That day is apparently not here yet. Regardless, it hit the spot after dinner — gnocchi alla vodka — which is one of my favorites, but also hot and heavy and can use something sour & sugary to follow.
Watching the Oscars last night while eating said pie, I realized that I’ve seriously missed out on movies this year. I’d only seen a couple of the best picture picks, I now have a list of must-sees. I realize most people try to catch them all before the Oscars… but here’s my viewing list for next weekend:
Dallas Buyers Club
12 Years a Slave
The Great Gatsby
Yeah… looks like I missed just about everything. I did see American Hustle, for what it’s worth — and I somehow love Amy Adams more now than I did before. Didn’t think it was possible! (Who else wants to steal every outfit worn in that movie??)
It’s been a tough week emotionally speaking. At work I’ve spent most newscasts reporting on two absolutely heartwrenching stories — one, the death of a nine-year-old boy, allegedly at the hands of his mother, and the consistent history of verbal and physical abuse he endured before hand — and the other, a four-month-old infant hanging on for her life after sexual and physical abuse by her mother’s boyfriend. These are stories that need to be told, but that are painful to tell. Our news director wrote this letter about just that, and about our plans for coverage.
There have been 9-1-1 calls and lapel camera video released; there have been questions about whether and how these children were failed while they were alive; there have been so many interviews with city leaders and members of the community, each one heartbroken and angry and sad. I know this is important to cover, but this weekend having the chance to disconnect a little bit was essential.
So yesterday, I was completely unproductive. Shaun and I went to The Grove for brunch (raspberry croissant French toast - to die for) before a short trip to Santa Fe. We intended to do a quick hike…turns out a foot of snow and motorcycle boots don’t mix well. Instead we enjoyed the gorgeous scenery for awhile before getting coffee and heading home. We had dinner with his family and then I went home, watched some Olympic Figure Skating and headed to bed.
Today, though, I have a lot to get done before heading back to work. And I do want to return with nothing on my mind but being ready to cover those challenging, but important stories…in hopes that knowing what we face will spark some kind of change in our community.
I’ve loved every place I’ve lived post-high-school… but the biggest downfall with each move is that I’ve gotten farther and farther from “home.” My family lives in a Chicago suburb and I never get back as much as I’d like to. This week was the first time I’d been back since my dad’s surprise birthday party in July — and it was just what the doctor ordered.
My visit also happened to coincide with #Chiberia/the Polar Vortex/Snowpocalypse — my flight into Chicago was delayed for 12 hours and my flight back, for three days… but the below freezing (with wind chill, -45 degree!) temperatures were the perfect excuse to suit up in cuddly PJs all weekend watching movies and drinking cocoa…only venturing outside to go to dinner (and let me tell you…we had yummy comfort food every night). In the top photo you can see my mom and I at Maggiano’s, our Italian family’s favorite go-to spot… in the second photo, some quality time spent with Grandma after we took her to a casino (she’s a high roller!).
I spent about a week there — never enough time… but it left me refreshed, re-energized and ready for 2014! One resolution: more time with family.
Every year, the city of Albuquerque transforms the Botanical Gardens into the “River of Lights,”a seemingly endless trail of glowing shapes and gorgeous formations. There are cute, campy animals and more inspired designs, made even more festive with a band playing carols and the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had (perhaps the bone-chilling cold made it a little better even…). It was my first time going, and I loved getting the chance to check it out!
Though extravagant and orchestrated, it reminded me of one of my favorite “Christmas moments” of all time. In Columbia, Missouri where I went to college, a man who goes by “Will Treelighter” turns a crabapple tree into the “Magic Tree" every year. You can see a story of the transformation here… though it’s hard to do the sight justice online. It’s funny how a tangled mess of wires in a box can become an arrangement that sparks so much childish excitement.
Does eight hours of baking constitute a “marathon”? Either way, I’m calling it one. Christmastime is probably the only acceptable season to spend $50 on baking basics (plus $20 on tins at the Dollar Store) and call it a necessary expense.
I count down to holiday baking. It’s a completely acceptable excuse to whip up countless batches of sweet, simple favorites. This year, I knocked out chocolate covered pretzels in favor of “lemon crinkle cookies” — and it’s safe to say they’ll now be a staple.
Here are the four fool-proof recipes I arranged my day around… all of them you can mess with a little and still get good results. (More peanut butter, more lemon, more chocolate chips…you see where I’m going with this!)
Lemon crinkle cookies: I googled “lemon cookies (I’ve been on a lemon kick lately)” and this was the first recipe to come up. I more than doubled the lemon zest and juice — just made ‘em a little crinklier and more “lemony” than “sugary”.
Chocolate chip cookies: Everyone has their own recipe. I roughly went by this, but used regular bagged chocolate chips. Also, I didn’t chill overnight… frozen dough= snacking hazard.
Russian tea cookies: These can be a pain, and they basically coat your house in powdered sugar…but when made right, they melt in your mouth.
When I look back at this list, I do realize— my Christmas cookies aren’t all that Christmassy— where are the sprinkles, the snowmen and the peppermint? I tossed some candy cane kisses into the tins — hopefully that makes up for it.
Moving from New York to New Mexico, I knew I’d be trading skyscrapers for mountain peaks — but I didn’t realize just how varied and beautiful the state’s landscapes would be. I was lucky enough to say farewell to this autumn with an adventure in the southeastern part of the state — home to the beautiful Sierra Blancas and the noisy Rio Ruidoso.
It rained most of the time we were there, which pushed heavy hiking off our to-do list. But it also turned the creek behind our rental into a loud, rushing river and gave us an excuse to hole up in our cabin dancing to Bob Dylan, cooking up a storm and trying to get a fire going (we never did succeed). It was relaxing, it was refreshing, and it was perfect. If you’re ever looking for the perfect place to have breakfast with a mountain view, bop from town to town (Alto to Carrizozo to Capitan) in search of cherry cider and apple pie, discover your own secret back roads and make friends with strangers at an Irish pub before hitting the local bar for dancing and a couple Coronas… you too need a trip to Ruidoso. Here are your must-do’s:
-A cabin in Upper Canyon: There are hotels, motels and bed & breakfasts in town but you can’t go wrong with a cabin. Many are family-owned and most are more than charming. We stayed in A Stone’s Thoreau — the web site doesn’t do it justice but it was the home I want to have when I “grow up.”
-Lunch at The Village Buttery: The buttermilk pie melts in your mouth and the atmosphere is whimsical without being pretentious. More of a brunch with your girlfriends than lunch with your boyfriend spot.
-Pizza from Cafe Rio: Sounds like Mexican, looks like a dive, tastes like heaven.
-Small-town visits: Google Alto, Capitan, Lincoln, Carrizozo, Cloudcroft and Hollywood. Bring sandwiches, a camera and your sense of adventure.
-Get down: Finish each night with drinks and dancing (two-step a couple nights a week) at local bar & bbq Quarters. Wear jeans and cute but comfy shoes.
It’s a cheap place to eat, drink and stay — a gorgeous place to explore — and somewhere I know I’ll be back.
Warning: watching this video may lead to immediate cancellation of your weekend plans and a sudden urge to throw a sleeping bag in the car, grab the biggest coffee you can find, and start driving until you find the perfect place to camp out.
This is the first video I stumbled on by Mammoth Film & Motion. They do films for commercial clients, but also post personal projects on their vimeo channel. This is one of those videos, and it sucks you in with the same pacing, use of light and aesthetic as most of their flicks do. They’re based in Kansas City (Missouri represent!) and every one of their projects has an unpretentious backbone of energy, youth and adventure.
So press play, and excuse me while I hop in the shower, pack a quick bag, and make my way up to the mountains (which, for me, is crazy to say — this is the first time I’ve had them just an hour away!).
(…And no, it didn’t hurt that this video starts off with my #1 favorite LCD song.)
airport essentials! @esquiremag & @gqmagazine + @starbucks; now headed to ABQ! (Taken with Instagram at Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD))
I’m currently at “home” in Naperville, Illinois for a brief four days or so between New York and New Mexico, tying up loose ends and untying new ones, and I’ve officially said goodbye to my shoebox apartment along the East River, an amazing job at a company and show I’d always wanted to work for, and the city I dreamed about but never visited for 20 years… until I did. I’m 100% ready for and excited about the move and I’m really looking forward to heading westward — but I did enjoy my time in the in New York, and am so appreciative I got to live there and get to know the city gradually.
I’ve been brief on this blog about my time in NYC - when Ifirstmovedthere, Iposteda lot… but as time constraints and elective discretion and plain old life got in the way, I got worse and worse about listing the places I went, sights I saw and things I did. And while there’s no way to do a full retrospective in one post, I do want to share a few of my favorite spots to visit, in case you’re making a trip and I’m no longer there to show you around! Here are my five personal favorite…
great jones cafe - not a hole-in-the-wall, perse, but a hidden gem. went here on one of my last months in new york, and then made return trips every weekend til i left.
the frying pan - endless sun, endless drinks. this is where the word drunch comes from.
westville - a cozy spot with locations in both west village & east village. friendly crew, the perfect slice of pie and nonstop coffee refills. a good choice for a casual catchup session.
egg - when you want the best eggs, you should probably go to a place called egg. i was, believe it or not, not a big “eggs for breakfast” person… this changed that.
gina la fornarina - i lived on the UES and this place was about 10 minutes from my house. and when you’re meeting up with a couple female friends (or have a boyfriend willing to be dragged to a place with a pink roof as long as there’s a fontina brunch pizza involved) there’s no better, simpler place. it’s a cutie, and their coffee is fantastic. warning, though — this place= instant post-brunch food coma.
joe, the art of coffee - a cozy area to meet a friend or two or, like most people i’d usually see there, bring your newspaper and plop down with your cup of joe. great coffee here, and an unusually un-busy place to duck in in a usually busy area. plus, they have barista classes, though i’ve never taken them.
jack’s stir brew - my favorite downtown grab-it-and-go, walking around & enjoying the village on a saturday afternoon iced coffee. tastes amazing.
saturdays surf nyc - you go here for surf gear, not coffee. but if you stop by for the novelty of a surf shop in new york, stay for a good cup and a chill crowd.
blue bottle - on the pricier side, but worth the occasional trip — specifically for the new orleans style iced coffee, which can be surprisingly hard to come by. they just opened a location inside 30 rock, which makes it an easy trip, though i think it’s worth it to check out one of the “full” locations.
think coffee - specifically the one on mercer, which is roomy and private and perfect, with a great area to walk around just outside or free wi-fi and plenty of room to work inside. If I would have actually checked in every time I visited, I totally would have been mayor on foursquare.
double wide - charming and with character, but still clean and unpretentious, double wide has a southern vibe and self-categorization without feeling like a theme bar. the drinks are ice cold and delicious, the snacks are bad-for-you-good, and the feel is perfect for a night with friends.
the back room - it’s fun to try a speakeasy at least once or twice. PDT is great, but the back room is less heavily trafficked, with a great atmosphere, friendly bartenders and generally good music.
bua (or, when in queens, sweet afton) - chill atmosphere, great drinks & a grilled cheese to die for if you’re into that kind of thing (& if you aren’t, you probably shouldn’t be reading this blog.)
death & company and sweet & vicious - no relation, but pairing up as I feel similar about them both — looking for somewhere to just “grab drinks”= both great. the former is quiet, intimate… the latter is larger if you have a crowd.
additional places to visit:
the high line - a walkabout/suspended park in chelsea. a great view, especially in the evening (though it closes before/around dark, i think?). afterwards, grab a foodie snack at chelsea market below, then pop over to the standard biergarten for a drink.
brooklyn bridge - i know, “duh.” but actually take the time to visit the surrounding neighborhood and treat yourself to an amazing sunset along water street.
montauk/amagansett - i haven’t spent that much time in the hamptons/long island, but both of the above are worth making a trip for, if you have awhile longer to explore
the strand bookstore - miles of books! a tourist stop and a local shop, it’s packed with any and every book you could imagine. worth a visit if you love to read, or even if you don’t. buy a ‘the strand’ bag, a throw-it-all-in-there staple… you’ll see them all over the place.
the beacon theatre - there are tons of music venues in new york, and while this may not be the best or most revered (I’m not trendy enough to know) it’s a great place to catch a show if you have the chance. I’ve been to a couple here and loved the atmosphere…great for a band you know and like - you’ll hear ‘em right.
sweet birthday treat (after cupcakes, ice cream cake, macarons and chocolate strawberries, though, it’s probably good that these are ‘eye’ candy!) (Taken with Instagram)
The past few days were a whirlwind of strawberry picking, back deck sitting, guitar plucking and barefoot walking and it was just what the doctor ordered. I feel level-headed and excited, satisfied and refreshed, content and motivated, all at the same time, and right now — windows open with rain streaming outside, warm coffee and cool blueberries on the bookshelf next to me, playing a mix of music and reading a postcard I found in my mailbox tonight — is the cherry on top of a perfect weekend.
Unfortunately, while I had grand plans to play with both the Beaulieu 4008 (borrowed) and Canon 60D (owned) I brought to Montauk, once we made it there I didn’t feel like lugging either around. So above, I give you the only two photos I myself ended up taking, of course (ruined? accented?) with an instagr.am filter.
There’s just something about a few-hour-drive, lined with trees and filled with laughter and sprinkled with stops for giant sodas, that makes me feel nostalgic and ready for what’s next, simultaneously.
I know everyone read Gatsby in high school, probably, but it’s still one of my favorite books, and I’m not fussy about it — I can get down with Gatsby-inspired this & thats (bars, clothes, video games)…but I have to admit, I was nervous about the Gatsby movie. Part of me didn’t even want to watch the trailer because Leo’s not how I imagined Gatsby, and so I was just going to avoid the situation altogether, and then one of my friends who also loves the book sent me his thoughts on the trailer and I figured… fine.
And immediately, the first second hit, and “No Church in the Wild” started, and I was like “WHAT. IS. HAPPENING.” It was so far from anything I could have expected that I’m not even upset. Is that Jack White covering a U2 song? Doesn’t the aesthetic feel like a cross between Desperate Housewives and Revenge? That guy looks like Schmee from Hook. This crazy drunk lady needs to stop yelling so dramatically. Why is Peter Parker slicking his hair back like that?? Is there a reason I’m not seeing more of Isla Fisher? What’s up with that car?
And so I watched it again. This time, I hated the narration, which felt like it was coming from Seth Cohen, and couldn’t handle the dancing, and the music just felt silly.
And then I thought about it again… and maybe it’s better, maybe it means something different, something more, when you juxtapose everything that is The Great Gatsby with everything that is “now.” I’m assuming the movie will have period-appropriate music, but if it doesn’t, that might actually be better… a blend of old and new; a way to make the themes translate. Or it could be just kind of absurd.
I guess the trailer did its job, though, because I’ll definitely be seeing it.
For awhile I couldn’t stop listening to the Alabama Shakes. Now, in the same general genre, it’s The Lumineers that all of my co-workers are getting tired of hearing me talk about.
I was trying to figure out when I initially fell in love with them (even though lately it’s been a nonstop affair), and finally came across this:
Why, yes, that’s exactly what you think it is. It’s a video clip from a show on the CW probably meant for high schoolers, but that I cannot get enough of. It doesn’t hurt that it’s created by Josh Schwartz and stars Rachel Bilson (ahem, The OC). It certainly doesn’t hurt that every man is gorgeous (and one of them is Jason Street!) and every one of Zoe (Bilson)’s outfits are to die for. And it definitely doesn’t hurt that the soundtrack is a mix of music I like, music I love, and music I hear and immediately think “I need to look this up.”
Anyway, the Zoe-Wade “will they won’t they” (depicted above) is a constant theme throughout the series, which fuses NYC+Bama (yes please)…and I’m not in the least embarrassed to say that this is where I first heard my (most likely) favorite band of the summer.