Tag Archives: Chicago

All I’ve Been Doing is Reading

The title is true. Other than work, a few custom card orders, writing letters, and watching my way through Schitt’s Creek and The Office, I’ve been doing a lot of reading. Our apartment is a mess, Naoto has been doing 95% of the cooking, and I’ve been neglecting my emails, but man, I’m really enjoying books lately.

What Diantha Did by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

We read this for book club in January. I picked it because we all loved “The Yellow Wallpaper” and it’s always fun revisiting authors we’ve enjoyed in the past. Diantha’s marriage to the man she loves keeps getting pushed back because he can not afford to provide for her and his mother and his unmarried sisters. So Diantha takes control and starts her own cleaning business which takes off like crazy until she rules over a cleaning empire. The book really makes you think about the value of women’s work and the roles of women at home during the 20s. Diantha’s fiancé has a very difficult time understanding why she works and can’t come to terms with her role as a provider. The ending felt a little rushed but in general, I liked it a lot.

The Odd Women by George Gissing

Have I mentioned here how much I love a good spinster novel? (I need to write a blog post about the book that started my infatuation with these books!) This one really fit the bill. The title comes from the fact that there were about one million more women than men in England at the end of the 19th century. The “odd women” were the unmarried women. The book explores five women: two “early feminists,” unmarried by choice, two by happenstance (their parents died and they had little family money,) and one woman who marries for financial security, which ends up being a terrible mistake. It shows the limited options for women back at the turn of the century, especially women without family money. I’ve never read Gissing before but now I’m curious about some of his other titles.

A Room with a View by E.M. Forster

I can’t believe I haven’t read this before. Lucy Honeychurch falls in love on vacation in Italy but ends up engaged to another man back in England. She has to decide between following her social class and the old rules of Victorian society or following her own heart. I loved the main story, but all of the supporting characters made this book such a fun read. (There were spinsters!) We read Forster’s A Passage to India in book club, and now I want to read Howard’s End and Maurice.

“Afterward” by Edith Wharton

This was recommended a few years ago during our book club Halloween reads and I never finished it. At Christmastime, I picked it up again and finally set out to read it last month. I’m annoyed that I waited because it’s so good, such a well-crafted short story. Pick it up at Halloween, or at Christmas, because apparently reading creepy books at Christmas is a thing?

The Folded Leaf by William Maxwell 

This was our book for February’s book club. We read Maxwell’s They Came Like Swallows a few summers ago and everyone loved it. Maxwell’s writing it so beautiful and there are a lot of autobiographical details in his books. The Folded Leaf is a coming of age story about two boys in Chicago: Spud, strong and confident, and Lymie, weak and thoughtful. The book follows the two friends from grade school to college and gives a wonderful glimpse into life in Chicago and Illinois in the 1920s. In book club, we had a good debate at book club about whether it’s a friendship novel, or a love story.

Asleep by Banana Yoshimoto

I read Yoshimoto’s Kitchen last fall after reading The Convenience Store Woman. I loved Kitchen, and its companion short story, “Moonlight Shadow” so much. Both just were so emotional and magical. I had high hopes for Asleep and it fell short for me. It was actually three separate stories, all having to do with sleep and death and mourning and ghosts…similar themes to Kitchen, but just not executed as well (to me.)

So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell 

Ugh…this one was killer. The narrator is looking back on a small town murder that happened fifty years earlier. The murder happened after an affair was discovered between two neighboring families. The story of the murder is slowly woven into the coming-of-age story of the narrator, who ends up moving away and seeing his old friend years later in Chicago. (Oh yes, it’s another Illinois story by Maxwell.) This book is only 135 pages, but again, like The Folded Leaf, Maxwell does such a masterful job getting you to feel his regret and sadness, all those years later.

Hardboiled & Hard Luck by Banana Yoshimoto

Again, nothing beats Kitchen…”Hardboiled” was interesting, about a women who is celebrating the anniversary of her ex-lover’s death. Again, there is a lot of sadness and a little bit of a mystical aspect happening… And “Hard Luck” is about a woman whose sister is dying and she’s falling in love with someone new. So, a little bit of loss and a little bit of promise…I’m taking a break from Banana Yoshimoto.

Unpunished by Charlotte Perkins Gilman 

This one wasn’t printed until well after Gilman’s death but it’s fantastic! It’s a detective story that had me thinking about The Thin Man movies. Of course, since it’s Gilman, there are a lot of feminist themes throughout the book. The detectives are a husband and wife team and the murder victim has been killed five times, five different ways (but you’re not sorry for him because he was a controlling, abusive jerk.) There are some great twists and some great symbolism but it’s still a light, fun read.

Since I started this post, I finished another book, but I’ll save that for my next book report. I’m starting a book by another Japanese author tonight (I think!) My reading is going to have to start slowing down though so I can get some projects done and get ready for my first craft show of the year next month. It’s been so nice though…I guess I just need to give up some other things so I have more time to read…

I’d love to hear what you’re reading!

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Naoberly’s Noodle Tour: Ramen Takeya

The day we went to the taping of the Very Serious Crafts Podcast was cold and snowy, so we decided to stop in the West Loop for some ramen. We went to Ramen Takeya, a sister restaurant of one of the best rated ramen shops in the city, Wasabi. We haven’t been able to get up to Wasabi yet, but Ramen Takeya specializes in chicken broth ramen, which seemed interesting. Plus we have quite a few friends who don’t eat pork, so we figured we’d do some ramen research for them!

We got to the restaurant a little before they opened, so we had a chance to scope out the menu outside in the snow. When we got inside, we were barely greeted and I just had a bad feeling about the whole thing. (Basically, the host–who also was our server–tossed our menus on a table and walked away while we were still at the front of the restaurant.) The shop was decorated with old metal Japanese signs and advertisements, including an old Japan Post sign. I just loved the “old Japan” feeling of the place! We ordered drinks, a beer for Naoto and a lychee cocktail for me. The drinks were good, and so were the buns (pictured above.) But the service continued to be…cold. I got the Osaka Shio ramen, which has both pork and chicken broth. It was good. I enjoyed most of the toppings and the noodles, but I felt like the pork was extra fatty (which I know some people love, I’m just not one of them.) I also got buttered corn as an add-on, which would have been delicious if it didn’t come freezing cold. Naoto ordered the Chicken Paitan Ramen with fried garlic as an add-on topping. He really enjoyed his bowl (and half of mine!)

At the end of our meal, we weren’t offered another cocktail, or water, or dessert, or any sort of friendliness, so we just paid our check and left…which seems like all they wanted anyway. I feel bad writing a negative post, but man, customer service is important…especially when there are so many ramen restaurants in Chicago. And I think our experience was just so shocking for us because the West Loop has so many great places to eat and we’ve always had stellar service in that neighborhood.  On the way home, I checked Yelp and all of the negative reviews mentioned the service and most of those people had our server, so…apparently no one at Ramen Takeya cares enough to give this dude some feedback. So, all-in-all, we’re glad we tried it, but a second visit isn’t in our plans. (Sorry to be a Debbie Downer today!)

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Very Serious Crafts Podcast

serious crafts podcast live taping, harold washington libraryMollie is the first “internet friend” I ever met. I went to a little stitching meet-up for her Wild Olive blog readers back in 2011 and we’ve seen each other a few other times over the years and obviously have kept up over social media. She and two other professional crafters (Haley Pierson-Cox and Heidi Gustad) host the Very Serious Crafts Podcast. I’m an occasional listener, so when they announced a live taping at Chicago’s Harold Washington Library, I signed up to go.During the podcast, the hosts talked about vintage crafts and what books got them started in crafting. They each passed around vintage crafts and supplies, including this kooky hairy couple and weirdly sweet kitty. There was also a terrifying clown made out of fabric yo-yos (sorry Mollie!) and some vintage needle books.

At the end, we each made a coffee cup sleeve using various techniques. I embroidered for the first time in a long time and it was pretty fun, even though my stitches were uneven and imperfect. I think I need to find my embroidery supplies and start making again!

They tape the podcasts in advance so I’ll let you know when it is live in case you want to listen in! Do you have any podcasts you listen to regularly?

 

P.S. Speaking of podcasts…Naoto still hasn’t posted his…

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Gyu-kaku

Gyu-kaku Japanese BBQ, west loop restaurantsNaoto and I celebrated our 12th anniversary last Saturday! We had plans to go to a new cocktail bar called Prairie School, but it unexpectedly closed for good the week before our anniversary. (It wasn’t even open a year!) I was super bummed. But then I read about Gyu-Kaku, a Japanese BBQ chain that came to Chicago a couple years ago. I knew Naoto would be into it–he remembers going in Japan–and I figured it would be something different and fun. It’s definitely not really a romantic place…it’s pretty bright and loud and open and you’re working together to cook your food, so if you’d rather have a more traditional special occasion with your partner, maybe this isn’t your place. That being said, a group dinner here would be a blast. (And of course it was perfect for us since we’re not really white tablecloth kind of people.) Gyu-kaku Japanese BBQ, west loop restaurants, lychee cocktail, Asahi beerWe started with an Asahi beer and a lychee martini while we pursued the menu for the best options for the two of us. You can order a la cart, or you can do different levels of prix fixe options. Gyu-kaku Japanese BBQ, west loop restaurants, Gyu-kaku saladWe opted for the “samurai” menu that included starters of miso soup, salad (pictured above,) spicy tuna volcanoes, and beef bibimbap. And for grilling, Kalbi beef, miso skirt steak, rib eye, garlic shrimp, chicken, and vegetables. Oh and mochi ice cream for dessert. It was plenty of food for both of us. Gyu-kaku Japanese BBQ, west loop restaurants, grilling meatsThe servers give pretty good instructions about placement and timing for the various meats. No one wants to eat raw chicken.  Naoto did most of the grilling, but I helped with the vegetables. Gyu-kaku Japanese BBQ, west loop restaurants, grilling meatsThere are three sauces to accent the food, sweet, sour, and spicy. The meats are marinated but the sauces are perfect little accents to balance the richness of the meal. Gyu-kaku Japanese BBQ, west loop restaurants, mochi ice creamOur dessert was green tea and strawberry mochi ice cream. A few bites of each was a perfect ending to our dinner.

Next time, I think we will probably order a la cart, mainly because there are different sides and meats we’d like to try in place of the prescribed choices with the prix fixe menus. They even have some summer specials that look really fresh and tasty. Gyu-kaku Japanese BBQ, west loop restaurants, cherry blossom cocktail, asahi beer Cheers to the next twelve.

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Thoughts on Jury Duty

view from the Daley Center, 26th floorI’m officially done with jury duty! I have to say, I thought the whole experience was interesting and dare I say…kind of fun? Our group of jurors was really great–everyone got along and we were able to have a little bit of fun together. Our judge was relaxed, respectful of our time and our comfort, and he kept us informed of the process. Our bailiff was funny. The court reporter was animated as he recorded the dialogue…he was kind of like Stevie Wonder, grooving to the closing arguments while he typed. Even one of the accident reconstruction experts was interesting enough to make me want to take a physics class again!

view from the Daley Center, 26th floorAs much as I’d love to write a blog post describing the details of my case, I don’t feel right about it*. I would never want the plaintiff’s family to find my blog and feel disrespected or criticized. But I will say, we deliberated for less than five minutes–all twelve of us were that much in agreement about the facts of the case. We found for the defendant, who shed a tear as the verdict was read.

view from the Daley Center, 26th floorBecause none of us could talk about the case (to our families or to each other), we felt such a relief when we all realized that we were all on the same page. And it was a glorious experience to finally be able to talk to each other about the case. Imagine twelve people in a room talking on top of each other trying to release four days of pent up conversation about the case. view of the Daley CenterEven though my jury duty was pretty painless, I’m looking forward to getting back into my normal routine around here. Today it’s suppose to be 70 degrees outside. I’m going to take a walk, write some letters, read my book club book, and feel thankful I’m not cooped up in a jury room!

*But if you know me in real life, I’m happy to talk about the case! I even made a diagram to explain things to Naoto!

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#WeekofIndulgence: The Little Goat Diner

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Last night, as part of the Week of Indulgence, we took a little trip to the Chicago’s West Loop and ate at the Little Goat Diner. Naoto loves diners, and we’ve both heard really good things about Chef Stephanie Izard’s other restaurant, The Girl & the Goat, so once I heard that the Little Goat was opening, it’s been on my radar as a “must try” place. We invited our neighbor-friend, Karen, who took one look at the menu and decided she was “in” for the Week of Indulgence adventure.

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When I eat at a diner, I am often overwhelmed by the choices…sweet breakfast like pancakes or waffles? Savory breakfast like an omelette? Lunch plate or lunch sandwich? I found the well-edited (but still quite plentiful!) choices on the Little Goat menu to be as overwhelming as the twenty page corner diner menus. So many choices, and each one as intriguing as the next! I wanted a little bit of everything, plus I already knew I was going to have the Blood Orange Meringue Pie!

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I also knew I wanted a latte–the Little Goat serves Stumptown Coffee, which I haven’t tasted since Naoto & I went to Portland back in 2002!! So good! My dining companions had beer & cider. (If good coffee is offered, I don’t mind being the designated driver!)

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Naoto got the Smoked Corn Beef Hash with Eggs. It was a huge portion (perfectly sized for the Week of Indulgence!) which he polished off with ease.

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Karen & I both got the Tomato Apple Soup with the Yay Toast, which was a gjetost cheese and cheddar pancake…the soup was amazing–it was smooth and packed with flavor and it had a bit of spice and the pancake was perfect for dipping–it was a grown-up tomato soup and grilled cheese pair (but way better–the cheese was so interesting!).

Karen got the Fried Pickles & Onion rings to share and I got the Tempura Mashed Potatoes to share. The fried pickles & onion rings were so sinfully tasty, especially the dipping sauces–a ranch and a curry sauce. And my potatoes were the best mix of tempura-fried, crispy goodness hugging creamy mashed potatoes. They were served on Asian barbeque and ranch sauces.

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As soon as I pointed out that there was a Choco Taco on the dessert menu, Naoto was on it. Choco Tacos are his favorite summer snack, and this one (inspired by the original) was served in a parfait glass with candied pumpkin seeds (I think?) on top. Karen & I each had a couple of bites, but Mr. Indulgence polished off every chocolatey bit. I was too full to eat dessert at the restaurant, but I ordered the Blood Orange Meringue pie to go. (And then I forgot it on the table resulting in a trip back to the restaurant to retrieve my forgotten treat!)

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Look at that perfectly baked meringue! This pie is the perfect balance of tart and sweet…and I would drive back a hundred times for it! If you go, get the pie! Get the pie!

Since the Little Goat is open until 2AM, I hope Naoto & I can make an occasional late-night trip into the city for a little bite together when he gets done at Trader Joes (once he’s better, of course!) They also have a bakery with all sorts of intriguing bread and scone options (so maybe an early morning trip should be next?)

I think Little Goat juuuust might end up being the highlight of the Week of Indulgence…just a hunch.

P.S. Get the pie!

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