Friends forging a course together through the unexpected

Dirty Thirty Boston Style October 22, 2014

A while ago, Matt told me to request the Friday after my birthday off. Not asking too many questions at the time, I complied. As my birthday slowly approached, I began asking more questions. Are we going somewhere outside the state of Illinois? Will we be gone the entire weekend or just a few days? Matt did not reveal one ounce of information until the day before my birthday.

When we got home from work, he gave me a box. Inside the box were the the following two pieces of paper.

Boston! On Friday we were off to visit my best friend Jill, and her husband Jaz.

We arrived a little early for our flight on Spirit Airlines out of O’Hare Airport, so we grabbed a beer and split an appetizer at the Goose Island restaurant just outside of our gate. Once it was about 10 minutes before we should start to board we headed over to the gate. Unfortunately we noticed it was delayed an hour.

Then it was another hour, and another and finally another. Due to mechanical issue, our flight was delayed a total of four hours. Once on the plane, we were not treated to any food or even beverages for the inconvenience of being stuck in the airport for an additional four hours. To add to negativity of the situation, Spirit’s credit card processing was even down so if we wanted anything we had to pay cash.

The delay did mess up the schedule for the weekend, jamming everything into Saturday, but luckily we made it work.

Once we arrived finally in Boston, we went back to Jill and Jaz’s place to eat dinner, celebrate birthdays and finalize our plans. Jill made a decadent dessert to celebrate my milestone birthday. She found a recipe where the bottom layer was chocolate cheesecake and the top layer was German chocolate cake. The crust was ground up oreo cookies. Amazing, it was just amazing.

The next morning we woke up, ate our cereal and headed out the door to Bunker Hill. We all climbed the 297 steps to the very top of the obelisk and were rewarded with 360 views of the city.

Bunker Hill Sights


Our next stop was the U.S.S. Constitution. This ship is the oldest commissioned warship in the world, commissioned in 1797. Matt and I had a great time exploring the ship and learning about its history from actual navy personnel living on the ship. I think we both could have stayed on it for another two hours!

U.S.S. Constitution

Next on our itinerary was to check out Harpoon Brewery for a tour. We picked up a 2 p.m. tour and headed over to Yankee Lobster for lunch. Jill and Jaz both got the fish and chips, which were very tasty according to their accounts. Matt and I on the other hand might have gone a little overboard. So much so, that we ordered so much food that we figured we were going to miss our tour. Fortunately the brewery is practically next door to the restaurant, so Jaz was able to run over and grab a refund. What did we gorge on? Well, we each ordered a 1 ¼ lb lobster that came with fries, corn on the cob and coleslaw. In addition to that, Matt also ordered three fresh crabs.

Yankee Lobster

The only logical thing to do after we stuffed ourselves was to head back to Harpoon for a few beers. The brewery offered three different types of preselected flights. Matt and I each got a different one so we could try even more. I really enjoyed their UFO white ale and UFO pumpkin ale. We picked up a bomber of their Imperial pumpkin and some barware to take home.

Harpoon Brewery

After the brewery we decided we needed a walk. So we headed back into downtown and walked around the Boston Common and Boston Garden. We took a few obligatory pictures with statues as well as outside of Cheers.

Boston Commons

Once we had worked off a sufficient amount of our lunch and beer we headed back to the car to head to Salem. Yep, we went to Salem, Massachusetts before Halloween, although you couldn’t really tell by how dressed up EVERYONE was and how the town was decorated. Streets were closed, street vendors were selling different types of products from witches hats and socks to candles and incense. My senses were literally overloaded.

Our destination in Salem was the visitor’s center to meet up for a walking tour with Spellbound Tours. We easily found the location and our group. Our guide was very friendly and informative throughout the evening. We walked for about an hour and a half to a variety of locations around downtown Salem. Our guide informed us of past history as well as current happenings around town. My favorite part of the tour was visiting the second oldest cemetery in the U.S.  A little creepy at night, but very cool.

After the tour we went to a Mexican restaurant called, Howling Wolf Taqueria. We waited a about forty-five minutes to get in and the food was well worth the wait. Jaz and I both ordered burritos and mine was absolutely delicious. Jill ordered enchiladas that were gone in about ten minutes from her plate. Matt ordered pork tacos with a pineapple chili sauce that were pretty much gone in the same time as Jill’s meal.

With full bellies, we said goodbye to the semi-crazy folks of Salem and headed back to Boston. With an early afternoon flight, we enjoyed a relaxing Sunday morning before heading back to the airport. Thankfully, this time heading home our flight left Boston and arrived in Chicago according to plan.




Thought Free Fried Rice October 21, 2014

Filed under: Kelly — Uncharted @ 11:43 pm
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I figured out why I love to cook so much…it’s prescribed.  There are steps to follow, and I don’t have to think.  After having to think all day long, I really appreciate accomplishing something where it’s not necessary.  The only thinking required is figuring out what I have a taste for.  And with that I will share this recipe so I can be done for the day!

Shrimp Fried Rice by Chungah at Damndelicious.com (this alliteration is perfect)

fried 2Ingredients {with my notes}:

3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoons sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder {I used ground ginger…not sure if there is a difference}
1/2 teaspoon white pepper {I didn’t have this so I used black pepper}
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and grated {I didn’t have carrots on hand so my dish didn’t have carrots}
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup frozen peas
3 cups cooked rice
2 green onions, sliced


1.  Whisk together the first four ingredients and set aside for now.

2. Heat olive oil at medium heat in a large pan. Add the shrimp, season with salt and pepper and cook them until they are pink which should take about 4 minutes.  Once cooked, scoop these out of the pan and into another bowl.

3.  Now add the garlic and onion to the skillet and cook for about 4 minutes until the onions are translucent.  Stir in carrots {if you have them}, corn, and peas and stir for another 4 minutes until vegetables are tender.

4.  You’ll need to make sure your rice is already cooked {I am in love with Trader Joe’s frozen rice.  It tastes amazing while only taking 3 minutes to make in the micro}, because now you will add it to the pan along with the green onions and soy sauce mixture you whipped up before.  Stir the mixture until it’s heated through.  Finally you can add the already cooked shrimp and you are done!



Birthday Celebrations Part 1 October 16, 2014

Filed under: Karla — Uncharted @ 8:52 am
Tags: , , , , ,

This weekend was the start of my birthday week extravaganza. There are only so many milestone birthdays in your life and why not capitalize on all of them? I’d rather have a great time turning another year older with my family and close friends than doing nothing at all. And so far, year thirty is looking pretty good and I haven’t even hit it yet!

The extravaganza started Saturday night at Pinstripes in Oak Brook. Neither Matt nor I had ever been to Pinstripes before., but we had only heard good things, I wanted to try it out. The staff were very attentive the entire night as we switched locations from bocce to bowling. The drinks were very tasty (I enjoyed a Ginny Fizzy) and we were impressed by their beer selection. A few friends ordered food throughout our stay that looked amazing. My husband even surprised me with a slice of flourless chocolate cake that was beyond scrumptious. The side of fresh homemade whipped cream definitely did me in. Special thanks to the group and the lane next to us for singing me happy birthday too.

Our group of eight designated all events boys versus girls. The first event was playing bocce.

Bocce at Pinstripes

The ladies jumped ahead in the beginning but slowly the boys inched their way closer to the win. After an hour, they proved themselves victorious. The second and final event was bowling. We opted for one game, and unfortunately once again lost the boys. I foresee a rematch in the very near future.

Bowling at Pinstripes

Once we finished up at Pinstripes we headed back to our place for homemade German chocolate cake, beer and a bonfire. I couldn’t have asked for a better evening. Ok, well, maybe if the girls would have swept the guys in all the events…but I know I can’t have everything I want. The moral is, I was able to celebrate with my friends and have a great time.

Here’s to me embracing another year, even if it’s a “big” one. At least I have a few decades before I reach “over-the-hill” and there is plenty of time to prepare for that!


Quick NYC Trip October 14, 2014

I was in New York for a 3 day work trip last week.  Even though I was there for work, I fit a few fun things in that I thought I’d share.  I flew in on Tuesday night and took a cab to the hotel- The Grand Hyatt which is right next to Grand Central Station.  The location is perfect.  It’s a few blocks East of Times Square and a little Southeast of Central Park.  It’s also right next to Grand Central station as I mentioned, so if you wanted to take the subway somewhere you’d be a half block’s walk away.  Walking in the first thing I saw was a white stone statue of a head.  I saw the exact same sculpture in Millennium Park.  I was so curious, I asked the front desk guy about it and he confirmed that the hotel has scaled down versions of the Chicago sculptures in their lobby.


The coincidence made me feel like I was where I was supposed to be.  Sorry if that sounds weird, but I am a big believer in listening to what the world is telling you.  There is a book called, ‘When God Winks’ by Squire Rushnell that talks about coincidences being more than that.  I think it’s one of my favorite books.

Sorry for that side story…Let’s see that night my boss and I went to a nearby Chinese place called Mr. K’s.  It was way fancier than we expected.  It was decorated with a mix of 80’s and Art Deco style.  The chairs were plush and the small little hostess tried to push in our chairs for us.  The cutlery was gold plated (or at least looked like it) and when they brought our drinks, they also brought us each an orchid corsage!  Not something I’m used to!  We ordered an appetizer and after they took our plates away, they brought us a mini chalice of lemon sorbet to cleanse our pallets.


Iggy Azalea’s song ‘Fancy’ was ringing in my ears the whole time.  PS- If you haven’t seen the video, I’m not sure where you’ve been, but you should check it out…it was inspired by the movie Clueless!  Haha!  After dinner we took a short walk by Rockafeller Place, Radio City Music Hall, and finally Times Square. Times Square is overwhelming but we had a chance to get  ideas for shows to see the next night.

photo- nyc

We had all day training the next day, but as soon as it was over we walked back to Times Square.  We wanted to see ‘It’s Only a Play’ with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, but there weren’t any tickets available.  We called the box office about ‘Jersey Boys’ and ‘If/Then’ (Starting Idina Menzel) but there was nothing available for either of those.  We walked by a marquee for a play called, ‘The Real Thing’ starring Ewan McGregor, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Cynthia Nixon, and Josh Hamilton at the American Airlines Theater (isn’t it sad these theaters are commercial names?).  There were tickets available for that so we got them and then headed to the Shake Shack for a quick dinner.  My boss had never been, but it was as delicious as I remember it being and hunting and competing for a table made me feel like a real New Yorker.  Not sure that’s a personality I want to use often, but it was necessary to secure seats!  On our walk back to the theater, we spied the Cake Boss Café and had a little time to check it out.  We each got a cupcake, which broke my no dessert during the week, but it was worth it ;)


The show was interesting.  I wasn’t exactly a huge fan of the plotline, but I loved seeing some famous people!  I mean how many episodes of Sex in the City have I seen and here was Cynthia acting 20 feet away from me?! No pictures were allowed in that theater, which was very painful for me, but overall it was an entertaining show.  We called it a night after that because we had more training the whole next day.


Our last day of training went well and we had a 45 minute break at lunchtime.  I decided to rush over to the New York Public Library so I could see the inside.  It was closed when my sister and I tried to see it last time I was in NY.  I didn’t have too much time, so I was pretty much running through there, but it was gorgeous architecture.  There were no books to be seen and the Rose Room (the main reading room you see in the movies) was closed, but at least now I can say I was there.


After my training was over that day I headed to the airport to wait for my delayed plane to take me home.  Traveling for work isn’t always this entertaining so I’m really glad I got to see so much of NYC.


No More Doggie Pedicures October 8, 2014

Filed under: Karla — Uncharted @ 9:12 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Matt and I learned a valuable lesson this weekend with our black lab, Porter. Until our dog is comfortable with us touching his paws we will not attempt to trim his nails. We’ve tried to use a dremel to file his nails but he is not a fan of the noise or the vibration from the tool. So, we thought we would try using nail clippers.

Our first challenge was to get Porter in a position where Matt and I could hold him securely while Matt attempted to trim the nail. The first one went perfectly. We used a few of his favorite treats to focus Porter’s attention off of Matt. On the second nail, Porter shifted and Matt accidentally cut a little too far and Porter started bleeding.

Catching a few rays on the dock

Porter catching a few rays on the dock this past summer

Very quickly Matt and I divided up responsibilities. He was hold Porter with a paper towel around the wound and I called our 24-hour vet hospital. The receptionist recommended that we use flour to stop the bleeding. I would have never thought to use flour! I put about ¼ cup in an ice cream dish so we could dip Porter’s paw into it. Amazingly the bleeding stopped…for a few hours.

I took Porter on a short walk while we were visiting my parents and his wound managed to open up. Once we were in the house I noticed little drops of blood on the hardwood floors and on the carpets. We tried using flour again, but it wasn’t working so we headed off to the vet.

We walked in and within a few minutes were taken to an exam room. The vet technician cleaned up Porter’s paw and put on styptic powder/quick dry powder on the wound at no charge. Did I mention I love our vet hospital? She recommended that if we’re going to continue to try and clip Porter’s nails we should pick up our own styptic powder. And if we want, we can always have vet technicians cut Porter’s nails during his annual visits. For now, the later option is definitely our choice. Though, we did pick up some styptic powder just in case.

Having a dog is full of adventures and life lessons. This weekend I learned that if you don’t have styptic powder or quick dry powder, use flour to stop the bleeding of a small cut on an animal. Hopefully next weekend doesn’t include another trip to the vet!


Sunday Funday {Better than a Monday} October 7, 2014

‘Sunday Funday better than a Monday, can only do it one way and that is the drunk way!’- You’re the Worst

So maybe we weren’t exactly drunk, but we did have a very fun Sunday this past weekend. Our friends Lei and Chris had invited us to brunch at Nightwood, located in the Pilsen neighborhood downtown. We agreed immediately and then asked them if they wanted to go to the Art Institute later in the day and maybe Eataly if we could fit it in. Dave’s wanted to check out the Magritte exhibit for awhile and October is the last month it will be open there. They picked us up around noon on Sunday and we made a surprise detour to pick up Lei’s sister at the airport. Then we were on our way to go eat some brunch!

I loved the place right away, at first you walk up to an enclosed patio which looked very cozy. It was too chilly to eat outside so we made our way inside which was bustling with people and made me quite glad Lei had made a reservation. The menu is simple which I like because I get overwhelmed when there are too many choices. At the top of the menu were listed two gourmet donuts. One was butterscotch glazed donut with bacon crumble and the other was a chocolate Cremeux donut with a milk powder crumble. Apparently the butterscotch one its always listed and the other one changes periodically. We ordered two of each to share which was a good thing. They were delicious, but very rich. And me with my new vow to have no dessert during the week was a little overwhelmed by the sweetness. For my main meal I ordered the coppa and farm egg sandwich which came with tots.  They were the size of a ping pong ball so in other words…Amazing! Oh and I ordered a Bellini too. We all ordered something different which is always nice so you can try a little of everything. By the way this is one of my favorite things with my friends. We always offer each other a taste or a sip of whatever we’re having. After we ate, we just sat and drank a bit more…Bloody Marys and Beermosas. It was really quite lovely!


After our brunch we made our way over to the Art Institute and the Magritte exhibit. I didn’t know much about the artist other than he is a surrealist and I’m familiar with the painting of the train coming out of a fireplace. He isn’t totally my style, but it was cool to see his work up close and personal and some of it made you think a little which is always a nice bonus.


After Magritte we ventured into the modern wing and saw a lot of cool art that had structure to it.  I think this was my favorite part of the museum.


Then we walked through a section with a lot of Buddha statues to go see the paper weight collection.


It’s been a long time since I’ve been at the Art Institute and it was a great trip  with a bonus of making me feel cultured when we left.

Then we started walking to Eataly.  This is a place Dave and I have been trying to go for months.  It was just about a mile walk up Michigan Ave and we had earned a treat!  When you step inside it’s like a little mall of different foods, drinks, groceries, and cooking items.  We stopped at the Lavazza bar and all had a warm drink while we stared at the Nutella bar.  I’m not kidding, it exists!  Meanwhile the hot chocolate I got was like drinking a melted chocolate bar so I didn’t try to add another chocolate item to my body.  We didn’t have too much time because we had to get back to the burbs, but we checked out the upstairs beer, olive oil, vinegar, and produce sections.  I made it out of there without buying too much- balsamic vinegar and some fancy pasta, but if I stayed as long as I wanted to I probably would have bought the whole place!  It was a jam-packed day but we had such a great time and now we can mark a few items off our list of things we’ve been wanting to do. Cheers!







Off to the Pumpkin Patch October 1, 2014

Filed under: Karla — Uncharted @ 8:26 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

This weekend Matt and I started a new tradition. And no surprise, it was with the help of our friends Tom and Kim and their daughter! Neither Matt nor I had ever picked out pumpkins from an actual patch before. Yes, I’ve picked them up at Jewel, Trader Joe’s and even from a preselected area at a farm. But never in an actual patch. Or at least not that me and my parents remember.

We headed out with the Ludwigs early last Sunday morning to Jonamac Orchard in Malta, Illinois, near DeKalb. In fact, it’s the same farm that fellow Uncharted author, Kelly wrote about two weeks ago. There are so many fun activities including live music, a petting zoo and pony rides. It’s the perfect place for a family.

Having fun on the farm

The farm is beautiful, clean and easy to navigate. The customer service was wonderful and there is so much to do there! Our first stop was the general store for apple slushes (the best apple slushie in the world!), coffee and cider donuts. With our bellies full and warm we headed out on a hayride to the pumpkin patch. The cool morning quickly warmed up as we searched for our pumpkins under a bright sunny blue sky.

Matt and I found two great ones and we were able to “steal” one that Kim had originally picked out but no longer wanted. Thanks Kim! I also picked up 3 fun gourds to use as decorations around the house. Unfortunately, the orchard was closed and we couldn’t go apple picking. So Tom and I headed back into the general store and picked up a few pre-picked bags and half gallon of fresh cider. To my surprise, everything was reasonably priced. I totally understand now why Tom wanted to go to this particular farm. And I can’t wait to go again next year!




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