Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Birthday Celebrations!

Last Tuesday I turned the big 2-7. As Joe has pointed out numerous times, this means I'm in my late 20's... and this kind of freaks me out! 30 is around the corner, which is crazy to me. So I guess I better live it up for the next couple years, because life ends when you turn 30, right?!

Ok, I'm really not that freaked out about getting older. I do like to use my birthday as a good excuse for a totally fun day with no work and lots of playing, and this year I did an exceptionally good job making it a fun celebration. The day started with my good friend Cathy, who is my favorite buddy to hang out with mid-week, since we both have jobs with random hours. We went to Kuma's Corner for some amazing heavy metal burgers, which were fantastic. Then we switched to girly mode, and went to a nearby salon for some mani/pedi pampering. It was such a treat, and a perfect way to spoil myself on my birthday!

Cathy and I have decided to use our weekday lunchtimes to explore popular Chicago restaurants that are usually packed. We've done Hot Dougs and now Kumas, and I have a feeling we'll continue this tradition.

I got the Megadeath burger, and it was to die for. The Kuma's burgers are hard to beat!

BLT Salad for dinner, with pretty painted toes on the side :)

I made dinner for Joe and I using some of the fresh produce from our CSA share, then we headed down to Lincoln Park to see one of our favorite bands, Mates of State. They aren't from Chicago, but happened to be playing a Lincoln Hall on my birthday. It was a great show, and Joe and I had so much fun! Officially a great birthday celebration!

We officially celebrated on Saturday night, too, with a party at our house. We used it as an excuse to share our home brewed beer, which our friends seemed to really like. There was plenty of beer to go around, and we celebrated our youth with a rowdy game of flip cup (which my team won!). We enjoyed the nice weather out back until a neighbor shushed us around 2:30, and slept in pretty late the next morning in an effort to recover. I had so much fun hanging out with all of our friends, and have to say this was the best birthday I've had in recent memory!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A sad day in beer land

So about a month ago we bottled our Rail Yard Ale clone, based off the most popular brew at Wynkoop Brewery in Denver. It tasted decent, but was a bit more bubbly than most beers we've made so far. It wasn't a big issue, though, so we have actually been saving most of it to share with our friends at a party this weekend. At least, we thought it wasn't a big issue...

Then I was cleaning the house this morning, and came across this, kind of under the bed in the guest room:

This is a picture of a bottle of beer without a bottom on it. That means at some point in the last couple days, we had a bottle burst. And it blew with enough force to blow the bottle right out of the cardboard box it was being stored in! We were in Iowa with Joe's family for the last couple days, so I think it happened while we were gone. Must have been a crazy noise, though!

Now we're chilling the rest of the beer, to relieve a little pressure. Then we're going to try to take the caps off, let off some pressure & foam, and then rebottle them. We'll see if there is any carbonation left at that point, or if we end up with a lot of bottled flat beer. There might be a lot of PBR served at my birthday party on Saturday night...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Attempts at Urban Gardening

For the last few years I've been talking about attempting to grow some herbs on our back porch, but for one reason or another we've bailed on the plans each summer. This time we were out of excuses and decided to bite the bullet and give urban gardening a try! I love cooking with fresh herbs, and was excited at the idea of having them available to me right outside the door. Also, to know that I've grown a part of the food I'm eating is an exciting concept that I wanted to try.

We decided to get our garden started on Memorial Day, when Joe and I were both home from work. Unfortunately, this ended up being a relatively rainy day, but I refused to wait any longer! So we got soaked while wondering around Gethsemane Garden Center, and them embraced the rain while planting at home.

This is a Czech Bush heirloom tomato plant. They recommended it for our small space, because it grows like a bush and doesn't need the typical steaks for a tomato plant that grows up. I also couldn't resist the cute little gnome to watch over our plants!

We bought two kinds of basil. Typical sweet Italian basil, and also lemon basil. It has already been growing a ton, and I used some of the basil in a pasta sauce I made last week. We also are growing French thyme, which I added to the quinoa loaf that I blogged about. The herbs taste fresh, and it's wonderful to just cut them straight off the plan while I'm in the midst of my cooking. Below is the final product. The tomato plant is already sprouting some small green tomatoes, which we've been checking in on every day. I can't wait to taste them!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Washington D.C.

Last weekend Joe and I had the chance to visit friends in Washington D.C. I hadn't been there since I was a teenager, and Joe had never visited, so we took the opportunity to really make this a vacation. We soaked up the touristy requirements around the mall, and took in plenty of history at the various Smithsonian museums. Our friend Nick suggested a Segway tour of the main sites around the Mall, and we decided it was a great idea. Not only was it totally fun to ride the segways, but it was also a quick and easy way to see so much in just 3 hours. It was a perfect overview of the important buildings and monuments in D.C., and our tour guide made the whole experience a lot of fun. This was a great way to start our trip!

After the segway tour, we spent the rest of Thursday just hanging out. We started drinking around 2:00... are you impressed? We had a great time just wandering around the city, bar hopping and sampling different beers and food menus. My friend Janice, who I've know since second grade, met up with us after work. It was so fun to catch up on the last few years! We also got to hang out with our friend Jay, who used to live in Chicago. His girlfriend Becca was busy starting her own law school graduation celebrating, but did get to meet up with us towards the end of the night. I wish we could get this crew together more often, because it was so much fun to hang out with everyone!

Friday was our super tourist day, and we made the most of it. We started at the American History museum, where we saw Julia Child's kitchen, Michelle Obama's inauguration dress, the Beastie Boys boombox, and other important American artifacts. We did a quick tour of the Air & Space museum around lunchtime, then met Nick at the Native American museum for lunch. We enjoyed a little relaxation at a quiet sculpture garden, then braved the lines for the National Archives. Seeing the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence was facinating and well worth the wait!

We met up with Danielle that night, and had a fantastic dinner at Marvin. Joe had the southern experience of Chicken & Waffles, and we got to sample some fresh, local soft shell crab. More bar hopping followed, with special cocktails at a sorta secret throwback bar called the Gibson. The weather couldn't have been better, and we loved exploring the nightlife in a new city. U street was packed with people, and seemed to have something for everyone!

Saturday Danielle teamed up with friends to make an amazing brunch at her house. The food was out of this world, and that combined with breakfast cocktails made for some major sleepiness by early afternoon. We forced ourselves off the couch, though, and spent the afternoon exploring Georgetown. I couldn't stop commenting on how much I loved the whole neighborhood! We managed to stuff our faces a little more when Danielle brought us to her favorite cupcake bakery, and then went home to relax a little before a very late dinner. The pizza and small plates we had a 2Amys was some of the best food of the trip, and this relaxing dinner was a perfect end to a busy trip.

Thanks Nick and Danielle for hosting us! We had a fantastic time!