Friends forging a course together through the unexpected

Chicago Holiday Excursions Part 1 December 17, 2014

Filed under: Karla — Uncharted @ 8:23 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Tis the season for tons of holiday events, craft fairs, expos, and holiday lights in Chicago. This week Matt continued to check holiday events off of our list. On Sunday afternoon we accompanied our friends, the Ludwig’s, to the Chicago Botanic Garden for the Wonderland Express exhibit. The exhibit features miniatures of historical buildings and landmarks in Chicago surrounded by poinsettias and other holiday plants with model trains bustling all around you.


It was fun walking through the exhibit and marveling at the construction of the miniatures. Once done inside, we headed outside to walk a few trails. This was only my second time at the Botanic Gardens so it was neat to see all the different types of gardens on the grounds. My favorite were the English and Japanese style gardens. Maybe this spring/summer I’ll go back to see how it looks in full-bloom. To compensate for the lack of outdoor flowers, there were a ton of lights wrapped around trees and plants. As sunset approached, the gardens started to glow white, yellow and red. With the lights and beautiful garden backdrop, a beautiful winter scene was created.

Ready to be refueled after walking around the gardens, we headed to Crisp. Tom and Kim were raving about their twice fried Korean chicken so we had to go! I thought Sunday evening wouldn’t be a busy time, but I was totally wrong. The place was packed with folks dining in at their 4 large communal tables or standing waiting for their take out order. Luckily Matt and I knew what we wanted to get from scoping out the menu on the ride to the restaurant. We ordered one whole chicken with the Crisp BBQ sauce, a side of fries and kimchi. Everything was delicious and yes we had leftovers.


This past Monday Matt and I took a half day off work and traveled to the Christkindl Market in Daley Plaza. We always have the same plan of attack for navigating the busy market. One of us responsible for food and the other for the gluhwein, which is warmed spiced red wine served in cute novelty mugs. We’ve found that if executed properly, we can enjoy eating our food while we wait for our beverages. This year we both got a bratwurst with sauerkraut and split an order of potato pancakes with herbed sour cream and smoked salmon. With happy bellies and our warm gluhwein in hand it was time to find a few ornaments and spiced nuts. As for our ornament haul, we picked up a pickle, a black lab for Porter, a beautiful wood carving of a deer and evergreen trees, as well as a red glass tree-topper.


Our favorite holiday traditions continue this weekend with a stop to Lincoln Square and Zoo Lights at Brookfield Zoo. Can you guess what next week’s blog post might be about? ;)


Kitchen Theme Bridal Shower

Two weeks ago we held my dear Cousin Molly’s kitchen themed bridal shower.  It was extra exciting because she is the first girl cousin to get married on that side of my family.  We have literally been friends since her birth.  I’m so happy she has found the one she belongs with and so of course we wanted to celebrate with her!  If you know Molly, you know she loves to bake and cook.  She even has a blog to share all the recipes she has tried- Bake Away Girl.

molyI feel a bridal shower should reflect the person it’s being thrown for.  It’s an important part of the planning process.  After all the whole party is about the bride!

Otherwise, why throw the party? Keeping Molly in mind, all of us who planned had a lot of fun coming up with ways to incorporate the kitchen theme into the party.  Here were just a few that we came up with that came to life at the party:

  • Flower arrangements using kitchen items: colanders, measuring cups, and Kitchen Aid mixers
  • Grater and whisk lanterns
  • Muffin tin candy holders
  • Recipe Cards
  • Kitchen utensil favors

The flower arrangements consisted of gathering all those containers listed above and taking them to a florist who agreed to create the vision in our minds (um and also on Pinterest).  That piece was pretty easy because paying the florist means they take care of all the work!   We had the shower catered by a breakfast place called Juicy-O and ordered sandwich trays from Cost-Co so that we could have the best of both worlds: Brunch!  And what is brunch without mimosas?  Not actually brunch right?  The hit of the shower was by far the mimosa bar.  There were four different types of juices, fresh fruit, and even a cute paper straw to drink out of.  My favorite part was mixing and matching all the different flavors.

more decor

We scoured Goodwill stores and asked some family to lend us graters, whisks, and muffin tins.  Then we placed flameless candles under or in each one of the graters and whisks and filled the muffin tins with candy.  I think they added a whimsical touch to the party.  It was a small detail, but pushed the theme even further!  The recipe cards were sent out with the invitations (which of course were matching!) and we asked guests to complete it and share one of their favorite recipes.  We collected these in a ceramic berry basket the day of the shower and then gave them to Molly for a keepsake at the end of the shower.


We didn’t want to play cheesy games, but we also wanted to have a little something to occupy people’s time in between socializing, eating, and gift opening.  So we set up a ‘Guess How Many’ game with a very large jar full of chocolate chips!  We also set a kitchen timer a couple times during gift opening and whoever’s gift was being opened when it went off received a prize (I really wish I had a picture because these were so adorable.  Even though I don’t, I’ll just tell you about them…we bundled a red and white tea towel along with a sugar cookie mix and a heart shaped cookie cutter together with red and white baking twine.)

decorLastly, we wanted to send each guest home with a favor that would be useful and of course also match the theme.  A long time ago I had seen a glittered wooden utensil on Pinterest as an idea for a favor.  I showed it to my sister and we decided to create something similar, but swap the glitter for red paint.  Here are the instructions for our creation:

Crafting List:

bamboo utensils (we found ours off Amazon)
red paint
non-toxic glaze
painters tape
washi tape
bakers twine
paint brushes


The most work was taping the handles.  We didn’t need them to all be the same, but we wanted the paint to stop about half way up the handle.  Once the tape was in place, we laid down the newspaper and tried dipping the utensils in the paint, but that was way too thick and would have taken days to dry.  Instead we starting painting with a paint brush and this process was much faster.  We ended up doing three coats of paint.  We let them sit for about an hour and then we applied a layer of glaze.  We left for maybe 2 hours and when we returned, everything was dry!

tags 2


We carefully removed the painters tape and only had one instance (out of 36) that the paint peeled a bit.  After that Katie wrote out tags and cut twine and I applied washi tape to each tag and tied the tag to the utensil with the twine.

tagsWe added some more washi tape to some clear jars and filled 6 jars with the utensils.  All in all the project probably took 6 hours- including drying time.  We were super proud of our work and the guests actually took the favors.  Woo Hoo!

tags 3






Gingerbread Extravaganza 2014 December 10, 2014

This weekend I hosted our ninth annual gingerbread extravaganza. In our senior year of college, my roommates Jill and Bethany created a gingerbread house, and somehow it has turned into an annual tradition. Months of planning are now involved since we’re scattered across the Midwest and East Coast. Thankfully since we’ve done this for nine years we know exactly what candy to buy. Our new edition this year was creating a shared Pinterest board so we each could add fun decorating ideas or potential patterns.

Back in October we selected a theme and then scoured the internet for patterns and decorating ideas. This year we decided on a beach theme. Jill usually bakes all of the gingerbread in advance, but since she was traveling from Boston we decided it might be better if I made all of the gingerbread. Luckily a few weekends ago I was able to carve out time to create our three buildings that included a lighthouse, beach yacht club and beach house. Unfortunately I didn’t know that dashed lines meant you were supposed to connect the pieces before you cut out the shape…which lead to an interesting beach house for Jill. I also forgot to make people, but as you’ll see we supplemented by smushing out Starbursts.

Jill flew in Friday night and we got straight to work building the houses. My gingerbread expanded a little so we ended up using a sharp bread knife to help even out some of the connection points. Utilizing our soup and pasta sauce cans for support, our buildings were nice and solid by the next morning.


Bethany arrived on Saturday to begin the best part, the decorating stage!We spent the entire morning and afternoon creating our masterpieces. Since Jill wasn’t going to take her house on the plane, she and I decided to build our houses on the same board. Here’s the finished product.


Even Matt got involved this year! He built an awesome platform for Bethany’s yacht club. As payment he requested lights and or some sort of fireworks on next year’s houses. That might help us to decide on a theme for next year. Guess you’ll have to wait and see what we come up with in 2015!



Milkwaukee Part III December 9, 2014

Filed under: Kelly — Uncharted @ 11:57 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

I know you might be sick of Milwaukee already, but there is a third and final day and I haven’t told you about it yet.  I’ll get through it and I promise next week will be something different!  These have been helpful though because I have a lot going on with work and party planning, and then Christmas soon too.  It is nice not to have to think up a topic every week.

First thing we did was check out from the hotel and then walk a few blocks South to The Spice House.  I really wanted to stop in here because I wanted to stock up on a few things.  It was clearly a loved place, there were a lot of people in there and it was a Sunday.  I stocked up on a few spices I’ve been needing and then we hurried on our way to eat something.

spiceA little further South we hunted for an found HoneyPie.  We decided to sit at the bar instead of fitting in a corner next to a table with young children.  Good decisions!  I love sitting at bars because you can make new friends.  I made a friend next to me with a local who comes by often.  I knew it had to be good if he was a regular.  We also made friends with the bartender who taught me to pour syrup in my coffee instead of using sugar.  Do you even need to hear about the rest of what I have to say on this place?  Okay maybe a little more.  The food was delicious.  I had something consisting of potatoes, eggs, and pulled pork.  We were too full to eat dessert, but he gave us a flyer for mini pies that they deliver anywhere in the country.  I kept mine, never know it might come in handy some day.


We actually had to hurry out of there because it was getting late in the afternoon and Dave wanted to see this place called the Chudnow Museum, or more accurate- he wanted me to see this Museum of Yesteryear.  It was $5 a person to get into a house that had rooms filled with items from Milwaukee in the 1920’s.  There were two very knowledgeable gentlemen there.  They were so detailed that you might say it was overwhelming.  If you are a history buff when it comes to pop culture, this is a good place for you to visit.


Last thing on our list and good thing because we were running out of time, was Lakefront Brewery.  It wasn’t far from the museum so we hurried over and made the last tour of the day.  It was $7 a person and you got a tour, 4 tokens for beer, and a full sized pint glass.  Even though he forced us to have a Laverne and Shirley sing-a-long, the tour guide was pretty entertaining.  Fun Fact- Lakefront’s bottling line is from the Schiltz factory which was on the intro to Laverne and Shirley.


We ended the trip at a bar called Stubby’s and ate a little something before leaving town.  Had to have cheese curds at least once when visiting Wisconsin!  The Packers game was on and it was pretty depressing for us.  The bartenders poured shots for the whole bar every time they scored.   Just gotta say there were some pretty drunk people at that bar…

We had a great time on our trip to Milwaukee.  I feel like when you go somewhere close it doesn’t seem that exciting.  But we found plenty to do and see, not to mention eat and drink.  There were a few things we missed on our list:  Mars Cheese Castle and the Jelly Belly Factory.  Guess we’ll have to make another trip someday!  Until then I made sure to pick up some Spotted Cow on our way out so I could take a piece of Milwaukee with me (at least until the beer’s gone)!

beer curds

I love my photo being taken when I’m freezing!


Christmas Lumberjack December 3, 2014

Christmas Tree ShoppingSaturday’s weather at 50 degrees and sunny was too good not to be outside. So Matt, Porter and I, along with our friends Tom, Kim and their daughter Maddie headed up to Harvard, Illinois to go Christmas tree shopping.

For the last two years we’ve tagged along with Tom and Kim to Ben’s Christmas Tree Farm. Yes, it’s a bit of a hike but it’s well worth the drive. You are able to pick out your own tree, chop it down, enjoy free hot chocolate, sleigh rides with Santa, a petting zoo and have your fresh cut tree tied tightly to you car. Plus, when you have a two-year old girl easily excited by anything Christmas and a two year old black lab who hasn’t seen horses before, you’re going to be in for fun. And we definitely were. Everytime Maddie saw Santa she started waving and saying hi to him. And Porter, well, he was in tree heaven. Plus there were so many other dogs around for him to meet and play with.

When we arrived I was surprised at how much snow was still on the ground. It made for a great wintery backdrop for pictures but made for a sloppy muddy hike with the warming temperatures. All of us walked around for a while trying to find the perfect tree. Matt and I were joking that Porter was going to “pick” our tree by marking it. Luckily for us, all the tree’s Porter picked were not up to my standards so we kept searching.

Tom and Kim found theirs first and shortly thereafter we found our tree. This year I convinced Matt to go a little bigger and I am so happy I did. The tree turned out perfectly! All that’s left is to add Matt’s ornaments and purchase a garland. I can’t wait to show our readers the finished product but this is what we are enjoying for now.


Milwaukee Day 2

Filed under: Kelly — Uncharted @ 12:59 am
Tags: , , , , ,

Last week I only got through Friday of our trip to Milwaukee.  Now on to Saturday!  We started off the day right with an amazing brunch at Blue’s Egg.  We had a bit of a wait, but I feel like that is always a good sign.  Why would people be willing to wait if it’s not worth it?  We started off with the monkey bread and it was gone in less than a minute!  I ordered their famous (or so the bartender from the night before told us) stuffed hash browns.  I choose the pulled ham and cheese.  It was delightful.  I’m pretty sure Dave had one of their benedicts, but it was gone so fast I don’t remember.  We’d go back in a heartbeat and so naturally recommend the place if you are ever in the area.


We realized on the way to Blue’s that the Miller Valley was very close by and since it was on our list we headed over after brunch.  We walked in the door and were informed that the next tour started in 4 minutes.  Talk about perfect timing!  I was a little overexcited to show my ID, but the guy who was checking it didn’t care about my last name at all and only looked to see if I was 21.  We were shown a lovely video hosted by the Highlife Girl in the Moon, followed by a tour of four different buildings, and ending with a tasting at the Miller Inn.  I went a little crazy taking pictures of anything with the word Miller on it, and we tried to drink the beer put in front of us.  I unfortunately have to report it wasn’t very good.  However we thought the tour was very good and would even venture to say it was better than the Coors tour in Denver.


The Harley Museum was next on our list and I wasn’t sure it would be very entertaining for me.  I’m not exactly into motorcycles.  My dad has one and I’ve ridden on it exactly one time and it was only because he forced me!  I was pleasantly surprised to find that the museum was very interesting.  A lot of it seemed like art to me.  My favorite part being the wall pictured below covered in many colored gas tanks.  Who would have thought?  The price is a bit steep, $18 per person, but I’m glad we went.  Check out a few of my favorites:

harls 1

harls 3

My favorite!

harls 2

Dave’s favorite!













We were pretty hungry after the museum and we had been meaning to check out the Cheese Mart that was near our hotel so we made our way back there.  The Cheese Mart is attached to a bar/restaurant called the Uber Tap Room.  We tasted a bunch of cheese on the Mart side and then sat down at the bar and had some drinks and something to eat.  We should have stayed on the cheese side.  It was really the only good thing about the place.  The service is best described as inattentive and the food disappointed us.  I think we are pretty easy going people, but we felt ignored most the time.  At least we got to try Havarti Horseradish cheese and drink more Spotted Cow on tap :)

In the meanwhile, it started snowing and we decided to go to the movies and see Dumb & Dumber To.  There were a few good parts, but of course it wasn’t as funny as the first one.  Sequels never are.  I felt a little guilty going to a movie when we were in a new city, but I never could go out drinking more than one night in a row.  My lack of party prowess along with the fact that we were day drinking were the perfect reasons to relax and ignore that guilty voice in my head.  It also meant we were well rested for Sunday…which I’ll tell you all about next week!


Milwaukee Day 1 November 25, 2014

Filed under: Kelly — Uncharted @ 10:35 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

For Dave’s birthday, I took him to Milwaukee.  We did some research online for the trip and he created a spreadsheet (sounds like my sister!) gathering recommendations from people we know along with the web.  Since I like to be so detailed and take so many pictures, I’m going to split this up into a few posts so I don’t drive you guys crazy.


We started off our trip in Schaumburg at a restaurant called Wildberry.  It’s one of our favorite places for breakfast food and if you haven’t tried it you really should.  Once we were full of good food, we started on our drive to Milwaukee.  From that far North, it only took us an hour and 20 minutes to get up there.  The first thing we visited was rated the #1 attraction in Milwaukee according to Trip Advisor.  No it wasn’t a bar…it was a Basilica!  Basilica of St. Josaphat.   Surprising I know.  I wouldn’t describe either of us as avid church goers, but we were both raised Catholic so it was interesting to check out.  Even if you aren’t religious, you should take a look at the place purely for the architecture!


Next was a bar (see you just had to be a little patient).  We headed over to the nearby Sugar Maple which was on Dave’s list to visit.  It was around 4:30pm so we were the only customers there.  We each decided on a drink and then hung out asking the bartender what we should see in Milwaukee.  The cool thing is he listed a few things we already had on our list.  It made us feel good about our list if a local was naming things on it.  We had reservations at Braise that night which was the fancy dinner of the weekend, so we said thanks for the advice and drove to the hotel to change.


We stayed at aLoft in downtown Milwaukee which is stylish and in the middle of everything.

Here is the view from our hotel room: Milwaukee River!

Here is the view from our hotel room: Milwaukee River!

The one major downside was parking or lack there of.  When we arrived they informed us that we had two choices: valet or a parking garage 2 blocks away.  We opted for the parking garage, but later learned the hard way that a sign saying ‘Event Parking’ means you pay the fee listed even if you are there less than an hour.  Ugh, $15 bucks for 45 minutes is crazy!  We shook it off because there really was nothing to be done about it and arrived at Braise 10 minutes later.


You can see the clock I was talking about peeking behind the sign!

It was right near what we would find out later is the largest four faced clock in the world.  Amazing things happening in Milwaukee people!  Dinner was amazing.  It was comprised of small plates and most everything on the menu is locally sourced.  It was a long dinner, but I would say worth the wait and our waitress was very knowledgeable about all the food.  It was already pretty late, a 2.5 hour dinner will do that, but we wanted to go out so we parked back by the hotel and walked across the river to check out the bar scene.  We had a little mini bar crawl comprised of three different bars before running our freezing selves back to the hotel.  We hit up Pourman, Bar None, and Dukes.  Along the way we saw tableside taps (including Spotted Cow!), a guy literally getting thrown out of a bar, and I beat Dave at darts twice!  To be continued next week…




Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 146 other followers

%d bloggers like this: