Waiting for the White Stuff

It's almost December. I heard Chicago's winters are soooooo rough.

Where's the stinkin' SNOW?!?

Source: flickr.com via Molly on Pinterest

Don't get me wrong. When I'm headed out for a run and it's sunny and warm-ish outside, I'm not totally disappointed.


I want to wear my hats and my magic boots. I want to catch snowflakes on my tongue and see furniture on the streets reserving dug-out parking spots. I want to share war stories about our "first brutal Chicago winter."


*my hubby just looked over my shoulder while I was typing this and said,
"Be careful what you wish for..."

Are you longing for the white stuff or perfectly happy without it?


Holiday Haze...

Is it Wednesday night already?

I've had a holiday hangover since we got back to Chicago Sunday night. Five days of family, food and fun aren't easy to bounce back from. Responsibilities? What? While I work to get back in the swing of things, here are a few pictures of my sweet twinsie nieces.

I dare you to try and figure out which one is which.


It turns out babies make some funny faces when you feed them lemons.


DSC05147 DSC05134

I can't wait to take these two sweet girls to The American Girl Store with their Daddy's credit card in a few years!

Are you back in the swing of things yet?


Mmm Mmm Monday: Sweet & Savory

How wonderful is it to have a friend and fellow blogger offer to write a restaurant review on your blog? I assure you, it's pretty wonderful. Charlotte, my long time bloggy buddy turned real life friend, visited Chicago recently and chowed down at Milk and Honey Cafe. Because she's incredibly generous, she agreed to share her experience here. 


Earlier this month, my husband, Jordan, and I took a weekend trip to Chicago.  Like Molly, I feel that a key ingredient to a great vacation is great food.  Jordan chose Milk and Honey Cafe (1920 W. Division Street) for our Saturday brunch, and it was the perfect addition to a wonderful vacation.

We gave ourselves realistic expectations for going to brunch at 10 am on a Saturday.  It was going to be crowded; we would have to be patient.  However, the hostess kept things moving, and we were seated within 20 minutes.  Also, we needed that time to choose what we wanted to eat, so it did not go wasted.  My husband chose the huevos rancheros.  I got the ham, cheddar and corn waffle, with a fig-syrup steamer on the side.

Every kitchen employee deserves a raise, because our food came out in about 5 minutes.  They must be wizards back there.  Food wizards.  My waffle was the best savory waffle I've ever eaten.  It was topped with corn - delicious, spicy, candy-like corn.  And I don't even like corn!  The mind-blowing deliciousness continued with the fig steamer.  Milk and Honey makes their own syrups, and this one was a fig, vanilla and black pepper one.  Upon first sip, it was sweet, but the black pepper crept in as you went on.  I couldn't share any with my husband, since he's lactose-intolerant, but hey, more for me!  Jordan raved over his huevos rancheros as well.

Besides a lovely experience, Milk and Honey confirmed how much I love sweet/savory combinations. I doused my savory waffle in syrup; chicken and waffles with syrup is also high on my list. The fig and vanilla, mixed with black pepper was right up my alley. I know some people keep their sweet and savory separate, but I think it only adds a depth of flavor when you bring these two together.

Next time you're in the Wicker Park area, consider stopping by Milk and Honey Cafe!

Do you enjoy sweet and savory together?


If you're like me and you want to read more from Charlotte you can check her out on The Daily Snapshot or admire her stylish ways on her new collaborative adventure phenotype: fabulous.


Small Business Saturday: 1st Frame

I'm a picture person.

Our place is filled with framed pictures of loved ones and special moments that keep memories alive.

So when I was offered the chance to design my own picture frame at 1stframes.com, I jumped at the chance.


1stframes.com is a small business in Temperance, Michigan. Its owner, Dean Vollmar started the company several years ago when he realized he wanted to stay home with his (then) preschool age daughters. I can't begin to tell you how much I love that.

The frames are made from alder wood and personalized using a laser. They are the original "You Create" picture frames. There are tons of pre-designed templates you can choose from or you can send 1stframes a quote or a picture of your own to be added . Vollmar claims anything you can create, can be put on a frame.

I decided to put his claim to the test. I included a rough picture of the Chicago skyline in my online order expecting to be asked for a better image or clarification. Imagine my surprise when my frame showed up at my home a few days later - no clarification needed. But what's even more important, it looks cool.

Ordering the frame through the 1stFrame website was quick and simple. And I couldn't be happier with the finished product.

Today, to celebrate Small Business Saturday
everything on the 1stFrame website is 25% off!

What would you put on YOUR 1stFrame?

*I was given this frame to review c/o 1stframe.com but was not compensated for this post.
The opinion shared is my own.


All Dressed Up for the Holidays

It's here! It's here!

Our first Holiday Season in Chicago is in full swing.

Ice Skating

The city is all dressed up in its Christmas finest and I'm looking forward to experiencing all that Chicago has to offer before 2013 arrives.

Chicago Tree Lighting

Suggestions appreciated.
What Chicago Holiday traditions shouldn't be missed?


Thanksgiving Thoughts

"Gratitude makes sense of our past,
brings peace for today,
and creates a vision for tomorrow."
                                                                                 Melody Beattie

A Clear Night on State Street

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.


Chicago Must Have: Hats, Hats, Hats

So it all started a few weeks ago when I tried on this hat with the fuzzy ears.


The hubby tried to convince me that perhaps I'm a bit too not-young to wear fuzzy ears on my head.

Despite the abundance of lines around my eyes, I felt the need to convince him he was really, really wrong. So after we left the store without the fuzzy eared hat I began to talk about it non-stop. Non. Stop.


Well, it worked. The next time we were in Bed, Bath and Beyond, the hubby insisted I have it. Relentless for the win.

The fuzzy eared hat is just the latest addition to my hat wardrobe. One thing I've noticed about Chicago is there are a ton of adorable hats in this town. Chicagoans take their cozy outerwear seriously. And I am happily jumping on board and joining the cool kids.

Here are a few that are already in my closet and one or two that will be soon.

Winter Hats

a | b | c | d | e | f | g

What's your go-to winter head gear?


True Story

Chicago Skyline

“It is wonderful to be here in the great state of Chicago”
- Dan C. Quayle    

I worked as a flight attendant and lived in New York City in another life.

One night I was in a bar getting hit on by a total goober that didn't stand a chance. He asked where I was from - because he was totally original and had already asked what I did for a living. I explained to him I was born and raised in St. Louis.

He looked at me with a clueless expression and sincerely responded, "I've heard of St. Louis. That's in Chicago, right?"

"Yes," I told him. "Yes, St. Louis is in the state of Chicago."

What's the worst pick up line you've ever heard?



Something Fishy

The handsome hubby learned something very early in our relationship. To plan a great date one thing must be included - good food.

Last weekend's date night definitely qualified as a "great" one. Not only did we feast on sushi (my favorite) I got to eat a few things that might make others gag. As weird as it sounds, one of the items on my Ultimate To DO list is try 25 things that fit that description.

Octopus Salad - Oysy Octopus

We started our meal at OYSY's (50 E Grand Ave, River North) with a bright, refreshing, tentacle loaded octopus salad. As a huge fan of octopus, I appreciated that it wasn't overworked. It was lightly marinated, combined with some pretty veggies and dressed in a fresh lime dressing.

But really, octopus is pretty pedestrian compared to what came next.

Shrimp Head - Oysy

Deep fried shrimp head.

Shrimp Head Shrimp Head

And I ate it. The whole thing - antennae and legs and eye balls.

Before I dug in, I verified with the waitress that it was intended to be eaten. The last thing I wanted to do was eat a "decorative" element. The waitress explained that she has never tried one, but fried shrimp heads are something her father really loves. She reassured me it was on the plate to be eaten.

I mean, she practically dared me.

I asked her if I should just eat it whole and she explained that I could do that or crack it open and eat the "insides." The thought of that was too much for me, so I took the easy route. I ate it all in a few bites. And until I got to the legs, it was delicious. It was like a dumpling with filling that I prefer not to identify.

But the legs and antennae were a bit much for me. They aren't something I'd revisit. They were flavorless, unpleasantly crunchy and they got stuck in my teeth. Not ideal.

Next time, I'll stop a bite before the legs.

I believe the tastiness of the shrimp head is further proof that you can fry just about anything and it will taste pretty dang good.

What the strangest fried food you've ever enjoyed?


A Three Minute Love Letter to Chicago

Think you've seen Chicago at it's most beautiful(est)?

I dare you to take 3ish minutes out of your day and watch this video. You just might reconsider.

Cityscape Chicago from Eric Hines

I gasped the first time I watched it. Out loud. And then I watched it again.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing it with me Miss Southern Drama Queen.

Eric Hines, the creator of this time-lapse work of art is obviously a genius and clearly in love with Chicago almost as much as I am. How else do you explain this love letter to my most favorite(st) city?

Did you watch it?
I'm serious, do it. You'll thank me.



Newbie Nugget: Days Late and Several Dollars Short

After spending my first summer in Chicago, I feel a deep connection with Millennium park.  I’ve found the park's centerpiece, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion to be a magnificent combination of two of the things I love most about Chicago. It’s both an architectural masterpiece and the home of countless cultural and preforming arts events.

As a Chicago newbie, it's tough to imagine this city without Millennium park. But less than 20 years ago that area of Chicago's loop was occupied solely by the Illinois Central Railroad. In March of 1998 plans were unveiled for an eye-catching civic improvement - they were calling Lakefront Millennium Park.

As might be expected with a multi-million dollar project, there were a few hiccups before its completion.

Did you know... Millennium park came in a bit over budget and bit behind schedule.

When Mayor Richard M. Daley unveiled the plan for the park in 1998, it had a price tag of $150 million and was scheduled for completion by the summer of 2000.


The Pritzker pavilion had its official opening July 16, 2004. So that's, what, just four years behind schedule? And the really good news is that the park ended up with a final price tag of $475 million. (?!?!?!) Thankfully, private donors picked up $205 million of the tab. That left the city responsible for only $270 million when all was said and done.
Is it selfish and naive to say I think the project was worth every penny?


The City of Chicago is Bigger Than You Think

Today I'm thrilled to share a guest post written by my friend and fellow blogger Heather of Smart Savvy Style. Heather calls Chicago home and today she's setting the record straight about "city" life.


I get asked at least once a week about life in the suburbs.
  • Which suburb do you live in again?
  • How do you like living in the suburbs?
  • Oh, I bet you have a big backyard since you are in the ‘burbs!
  • How long is your commute in to the city?
  • Oh, you mean, you come all the way in to the city to do X, Y, or Z?

The best part? I live in the city.

Most transplants assume that if you don’t live in the loop, or perhaps Lakeview, you must be in the suburbs. And while there are lots of lovely neighborhoods “in the city,” there are also lots of lovely neighborhoods, well, in the city.

I am not knocking transplants. I am also a Chicago transplant, originally from Alabama. I would love to live in Old Town with the beautiful homes close to the lake and a Starbucks or brunch place on every corner. At least then, people would know I’m in the city.

But, I don’t.

I married a real Chicagoan, born and raised. And we live in a neighborhood where Chicagoans have yards and garages and parking. We even have a Starbucks or two.

we have restaurants and bars

we have national landmarks
...and yes, this is a national landmark in my mind.

we even have public transit
The Jefferson Park Transit Center includes a large CTA bus terminal, 
access to the blue line, and a Metra stop

I still consider myself new to the city, and I often spend time in your neighborhoods, exploring the museums, restaurants, and sports teams. I think your neighborhoods are fun, lively areas.

But there is life beyond the loop because, you see, Chicago is bigger than you think.


Are you interested in swapping guest posts? 
Leave me a comment or send me a note and let's talk!


Unite to Rewrite

"Imagine you have lost your job. Your spouse has left you. Your family and friends have disowned you. You are left to live by yourself. Why? Because you have contracted a disease for which there is no known cure. A disease that your society despises and deems intolerable... Approximately 1.4 million Kenyans are HIV-positive and are in need of a life transformation, both physically and spiritually."

Being diagnosed with HIV has long been considered a death sentence by the Kenyan population. This is one reason why the primary aim of CARE for AIDS has always been to empower HIV-positive Kenyans to take control of their physical and spiritual well-being. CARE for AIDS is on a mission to spread hope.

Can I make a confession? I'm not a huge a fan of foreign mission work. Too often, I believe the trips become more about the missionary than the people they are meant to be serving. Go ahead, revoke my Christian card. Because of my prejudice, when I had the first opportunity to speak with Justin Miller, a co-founder of CARE for AIDS, I was skeptical. I was prepared to listen politely, learn a bit about the organization and move on.

That isn't what happened.

I was caught by surprise. CARE for AIDS and the work it is doing in Kenya has captured my heart and compelled my involvement. Here's why:

"We are proud that our vision is Kenyan born and Kenyan raised. Our role as American 
partners is to provide the resources to equip and empower the people of Kenya 
to care for their own. As long as CARE for AIDS exists, there will always be Kenyans 
running the ministry on the ground."

Source: careforaids.org via CARE

The CARE for AIDS centers in Kenya serve the physical, spiritual, economic, and social needs of men and women living with HIV/AIDS. Each center serves 80 individuals at a time and they have seen 1,735 graduates since 2008.

So when offered the opportunity to partner with CARE for AIDS in their current rewritten campaign, I jumped at the chance.

They've set a goal to raise $24,000 by January 1st. The money will be used to open the 16th center in a slum outside of Kisumu.  Kisumu is the most highly infected community in Kenya, and there are nearly 1,000 people on waiting lists to join the centers there.

Haven't you loved all the "thankful" posts on Facebook in preparation for Thanksgiving? What if we add a few "giving" posts to round out the holiday preparation? Raising $24,000 in a few weeks is a big goal to reach, but I believe it is possible with your help. Will you join the campaign with me?

Raise Money | Raise Awareness | Raise Your Voice

Please join me by getting involved in one of three ways - or hey, all three ways would be great too!
  1. Make a financial donation: It's simple. Just click here and lend your support. 
  2. Share the #rewritten campaign on social media. Visit the rewritten resource page for ideas to share on your blog, Facebook or Twitter. 
  3. Send a personal message to your community. CARE for AIDS has created an email template that you can adapt and personalize to ask others to get involved.
Let me know how you choose to lend your support!

Thank you in advance for your generosity and participation.


A Magical Combination of Film and Food

Next week, four of my favorite words are combining to create something so magical I can hardly believe it's real.

But it is real. I'm serious. There's a food film festival happening in Chicago. And you can get tickets right here.

The festival is comprised of 4 events happening November 15th - 17th where the audience gets to taste what they see on screen.

Chicago Food Film Festival

Each of the four events is a collection of short films centered around a particular theme. Then, in a stroke of genius, the audience gets to enjoy a tasting menu before (and sometimes during) the films.

But you want to know something even more special? The festival is hosted by and benefits The Good Food Project. Their mission is to introduce children to, "the exquisite flavors of the earth's bounty to help them develop a lifelong love of good food and enjoy the benefits of a healthy life."

I'm hoping to attend Edible Adventure #006: Chicavo! on Saturday the 17th. In addition to six short films and a mouth watering menu this event will include Matt Timms' Avocado Takedown. The "Takedown" is a competition between twenty amateur chefs creating avocado masterpieces for the audience to judge.

So let's recap.

  • A Collection of Short Films
  • A Menu Filled with Great Food
  • A Worthy Cause

Who's coming with me?


Blogging In Community

When it comes to social media, a lot of people have the "media" part nailed but their "social" game is lacking. We have lots to say, lots to share, sometimes lots to preach. But we forget to listen, interact, promote and participate with others.

I understand. For years I was one of those people. Some days I'm still one of those people. When things get busy, the social side of blogging seems to be the first thing to fall to the end of the day's "to do" list. I get my post up, throw a few tweets in the buffer and cross it off the list.

Social media in general, and blogging in particular can become a megaphone to blast my thoughts instead of a social endeavor to interact with others. But on the days when the conversation is one-way it isn't nearly as rewarding.

Today on Smart and Savvy Style, I've written a guest post about the social side of blogging. Building relationships through blogging has become the unintended payoff of A Foreign Land.

I never dreamed that I might find friends or even a job through my blog. But that is exactly what has  happened.

First, though, I had to change my blog from a monologue to a vehicle for conversation. Once I did, I began to see and experience a real change.

I might not have an enormous audience. I haven't gotten a book deal or become a household name. But through regular blogging, I've developed a community that I cherish and friends I might never have connected with otherwise.

Do you put as much "social" as you do "media" into your social media?


Mmm Mmm Monday: Char Dog

"Is she talking about hot dogs again?"

Yes, yes I am.

Wiener Circle Untitled

When my sweet friend Cameron was in town a few weeks ago, she reminded me that she had never had a Chicago dog before. There was no question that needed to change. But where should we go?

We decided to check out The Wiener Circle in Lincoln Park. We chose it partly because I've seen it profiled on The Best Thing I Ever Ate, partly because my friend Heather highly recommends it and partly because of its proximity to Molly's Cupcakes.

If I'm being honest, the Molly's Cupcakes thing weighed most heavily.

Char Dog - Wiener Circle Chicago Wiener Circle
Char Dog & Darn Good Fries (minus the cheese sauce that I'm saving for the next trip)

You guys, this place is great. The stand itself is teeny tiny. The people working there are kind of rude in a, "We're just trying to move this process along," kind of way. The atmosphere is definitely exactly what springs to mind when you hear the words "Hot Dog Stand." Translation: not glamorous.

And the dogs are delicious. The Wiener Circle is famous for (among other things) their Char Dogs. The dogs are charbroiled, bordering on burnt, which would usually turn me off. I was that kid that threw 5 hot dogs away because she kept catching them on over the campfire. But, at the Wiener Circle the char totally works! It's a perfect addition to the already ingredient-heavy Chicago dog.

Who knew another flavor could make a Chicago dog even better?

Apparently the Wiener Circle is also quite the late night spectacle. Word on the street is that things get a bit PG-13 after dark. The employees exchange insults with the clients and things have been known to get rowdy once the bars in the neighborhood close. Check out their website for multiple videos of the craziness.

But when we went in the afternoon things were pretty tame and pretty delicious.

Campfire dogs: burnt or barely roasted?