I spent most of the 28 days working, even on weekends where I worked anywhere from an extra hour or two to an extra twelve.
And one of my best friends moved way. And didn’t say goodbye. And hasn’t talked to me since. And I’ve had to, more and more, come to the realization that maybe he was never a friend at all.
I’m just exhausted from it all.
Anyways, here are a few of the things I got up to in February when I wasn’t working or crying into my pillow…
I started moving into my new apartment this weekend! It will be good for me to have my own place. I hope. I really am more than exited to start this new chapter in life, and I’ll tell you all about it soon. But, for now, all I have is a mattress and I still haven’t even slept there because I had a commitment to catsit over the weekend. Tonight though, tonight…
I worked one of the best wine auctions in the world. And I looked pretty doing it
I saw The Passenger, which was the opera I most anticipating all season. It’s a powerful story of a former Auschwitz prison guard confronted by a former prisoner and her past. I don’t think I’ve cried as much during any other opera I’ve seen. It was sad at times and moving at others. If you’re in Chicago I highly recommend it (and I am not just saying that because I work there…)
Because I apparently can’t get enough opera, I went to Lagunitas Tap Room for Chicago Opera Theater’s Beers and Baritones event that featured a performance, tamales, and as much beer as you could drink before they closed.
I went to the Anti-Valentines Day party at Thalia Hall for, shocker, Valentines Day. And there were entirely too many people there who were coupled up. But I got drunk and danced with my girlfriends. So all is good.
And I ate some really good things…
Like the scallops with polenta (why can’t I ever get my polenta at home to turn out this good?) at a pre-opera dinner at Townhouse.
And the pastrami and corned beef hash at Eleven City Diner (But seriously, why is it you can get breakfast all day but can’t get lunch for breakfast? All I wanted was some matzoh ball soup and a pastrami on rye.)
And some pintxos and and cocktails at Salero, my favorite being a little paella bite that had all the beautiful flavors of paella packed onto a toothpick. (Of course, I could have done with a whole plate of it…)
And dinner at avec. Again. Where we ate way too much. Again.
I know what you’re going to say: “Just look on Craigslist.” Or, alternately, “Just go to IKEA.” And what you mean to say is, “Just get something cheap.” Because, to you, maybe a couch isn’t that important.
But, here’s the thing, I’ve been dreaming of buying my own couch since before I ever dreamed of traveling the world. And, while I was traveling, I’d often window shop online, lusting after what was out there, dreaming of someday decorating an apartment exactly how I’ve always envisioned.
I’m weird, OK.
I’m not sure when or why it got into my head that I needed a teal couch. You’d think maybe I’d obsess over a pink couch, seeing as everywhere else in life I obsess over pink. But no, when it comes to decorating, everything is teal. And so, when it comes to my couch, I’m all about the teal (or, at least, any sort of blue-green shade).
I once actually bought a powder blue sofa. It was ridiculously cheap at an outlet store because it was a floor model and only had one arm (it was technically part of a sectional — I’m not sure what happened to the rest of it). But it sat in my poor parents’ house forever as I was too poor to move out and eventually they gave it away to my sister.
But anyways, I want a teal couch. Sure, it may be more practical to get something neutral, like brown or gray. But suck it. Teal. Teal teal teal. Besides, I’m not allowed to paint in my new apartment so I need color everywhere else. Everywhere. Else.
Teal is actually a pretty popular color in couches. OK, I don’t know about popular, but it’s at least pretty available.
Teal is actually a pretty available color in couches. So there are a lot of options for me to choose from. Some are probably more comfortable than others. Some are definitely more affordable than others. And some are just downright impracticable (but pretty, still). It makes finding the perfect couch hard. Well, easy, because I want like three couches. Can I just have three living rooms? (The answer to that is, “No,” I can barely afford a one bedroom apartment to begin with.)
I kind of already know which one I’m leaning towards, because it’s one I’ve been lusting after in the store for a while. But then I see other ones and get confused. So confused.
But I really can’t wait to finally have a couch of my own. (I know, weird.)
What do you think? Which couch is your favorite? Or do you think I’m crazy and should just go on Craigslist and buy something brown. I can take it. (OK, no, I can’t.)
It’s easy to make New Years resolutions and then promptly forget about them. Everyone is gung ho about going to the gym on January 1 but come January 31 it’s all Netflix and excuses. Or maybe that’s just me. Personally, despite every good intention I may have had, I lost about 1 pound in January. I tried cutting down on calories but instead I ate way too much chocolate. As usual. And I thought about buying a Groupon for some fitness classes but then a nasty cold had me doing nothing but taking DayQuil and passing out. And I thought about joining a gym but didn’t want to commit to anything because I didn’t know where in the city I’d be moving.
Excuses, I know. But, it is what it is.
I did, however, make strides towards some of my goals for the year. I haven’t bitten my nails since before Christmas. During the week I’ve mostly used the Keurig machine at work instead of stopping at Starbucks on the way. And I’ve been keeping a spreadsheet and writing down every cent I’ve been spending to try to try to not overspend.
Oh, and I found an apartment.
I signed a lease and move into my own place in March. The building is a little bleak, but the apartment itself, while older than I’d like, is cute. It was one of those things where I just felt happy being inside. Like I could live there. Which doesn’t happen often with me. So I submitted an application right away. The apartment is in an pretty amazing location, which sealed the deal. It’s surrounded by good bars, restaurants (including the new location of Taco in a Bag which my friends are opening soon!), places where I can take guitar or cooking lessons, and a movie theater. It’s also two blocks from a gym that offers yoga and spinning and zumba. So, I guess, come March, I will have no more excuses.
Except that my gym shoes are buried in a box in storage somewhere.
Honestly though I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Since getting home in October I’ve had little energy. I come home from work and want to do nothing but lay in bed watching Netflix and Hulu. This feeling of being in limbo, unsettled, in transition, has been hard. And I didn’t realize how hard it had been for me until I actually signed a lease.
Soon I’ll have a place of my own and, hopefully, start feeling whole again.
It’s about the small things.
Here are a few more things I got up to in January…
Selfie at the Art Institute!
I went to The Art Institute’s Modern Wing for the first time. And laughed at penises. Because…wait…please tell me I’m not the only one…
I played Cards Against Humanity for the first time. And probably played the best hand i will ever play.
I tried the new flat white at Starbucks (on a weekend, of course) and was super excited because no one in the US ever has them on the menu.
I won a prize from McDonalds on Twitter for no reason at all. (Seriously, they just randomly tweeted me and then sent me $200 in gift certificates and some other swag! I NEVER WIN ANYTHING!)
If you haven’t noticed: I like to eat. I pretty much live for my next meal. And, yes, yes I am one of those girls who refuses to start eating (or let anyone touch communal food) until I have properly instagrammed it. I hope that doesn’t turn you off from dining with me. Or from following me on instagram. Because I totally need more people to dine with. And to follow me on Instagram. So you should totally do both.
I’m trying to make it a goal this year to finally go out and eat at all the places in Chicago that I’ve always wanted to eat. You know, instead of just ordering Thai food from that place that isn’t amazing but is close 10 times a month. And I assume you want to know about everything I eat. Because, come on, who wouldn’t?
So in the spirit of forcing myself out into the Chicago dining scene, here are some of the best things I ate this January.
Roasted woodland mushroom sandwich with watercress, radicchio, pecorino, and truffle aioli. I had this as a lunch combo with a soup that was a bit too thin…squash maybe, parsnip? I don’t remember. It wasn’t that great, I guess, and they almost forgot to bring it to me. But the mushroom sandwich was delicious. I could go vegetarian for mushroom sandwiches.
Chorizo-stuffed medjool dates with bacon and piquillo pepper-tomato sauce from Avec.
“Deluxe” focaccia with taleggio cheese, ricotta, truffle oil and fresh herbs from Avec.
Slow roasted pork shoulder with vadouvan spiced lentils, roasted brussels sprouts and apples from Avec.
Wood oven paella with confit chicken, snail boudin, clams and tangerine aioli from Avec.
Lamb bolognese with buckwheat pappardelle, apple, mint and sheep’s milk cheese from Avec.
I had never been to Avec. My friend Alyssa couldn’t believe it and I had to remind her that most of the time I lived in Chicago her and all my other friends were poor and jobless. And so I never went out to eat because I had no one to go out to eat with. We remedied that one night when a friend of hers was visiting and we were trying to figure out where to eat. But now I’m not sure I ever want to eat anywhere else. We may have over ordered, just a bit, for three of us. We had the lamb bolognese with perfectly greasy noodles, the wood oven paella with confit chicken and snail boudin and clams, we had the slow roasted pork shoulder that fell apart so tenderly on my fork, we had the focaccia stuffed with mild soft cheeses, and the chorizo-stuffed medjool dates that were tasty and sweet despite being a bit too stuffed for my liking. And we shared a bottle of wine (between just me and Alyssa, her friend had beer). And so, afterwards, I may have promptly taken a train home to fall asleep by ten. Don’t go to Avec if you want to be coherent afterwards.
Three Dots and a Dash
I ended up going to Three Dots and a Dash twice this month. I had been planning on going for my birthday for months because I had never been. But then the week before some coworkers decided to go after work and invited me along. How could I say no? The sweet or sour tiki-themed cocktails in fun tiki-shaped glasses are definitely the reason to go. But it was worth getting a few appetizers. We shared the coconut shrimp, the crab rangoon (which was much more crabby than the typical fast food Chinese variety), and spring rolls. All were good, though the small portions left us ravishing…
And so, after drinking a few too many cocktails, we turned the corner to get a late bite at XOCO, Rick Bayless’s Mexican torta shop. It was hard to decide what to get but I settled on Wednesday’s special: pork belly torta. Because if there are any two words that go better together than pork belly, I don’t know what they are.
Stan’s Doughnut opened under the blue line station in Wicker Park while I was away. It was one of those things where I came back from traveling and noticed it’s presence then glanced across the street and thought, “Wait, did a doughnut shop just open across the street from another doughnut shop?”
Yes, yes it did. Doughnuts apparently became the new things while I was gone. But if that means I can get a warm, cakey, carrot cake doughnut topped with sticky cream cheese frosting, I’m OK with that trend.
Glazed & Infused
Speaking of doughnuts. I had this post all ready to go and then my co-worker had to go and bring in a platter of mini-doughnuts from Glazed & Infused for my boss’s birthday. It was almost impossible to choose which ones to go with, but I had a red velvet that had way too much frosting. And by that I mean just enough frosting. And I had the maple bacon. Because, bacon.
I’m sometimes called out about how negative I can be. And I get it: my blog can be kind of a downer. But that doesn’t mean I’m not happy. And it doesn’t mean I don’t have a totally amazing life full of good food, friends, and experiences. It’s mostly just that I use writing as a way to make sense of things, and usually you don’t have to make sense of happy things. Happy things are happy things. Negative things are more complicated. Negative things need to be worked through. Negative things need attention. And, for me, writing is the way to do that.
But happy things deserve attention too.
Last week I celebrated my birthday. My 34th birthday. My thirties have been, so far, quite frankly, amazing. Since turning thirty four years ago I’ve finally started to come into my own, to find myself, to lose myself, however you want to see it. Every year I’ve become more and more of the person I always wanted to be. Not changed, but refined, upgraded.
I traveled for two and a half years of my thirties so far. I’ve had more than my share of romances. I started learning guitar and drawing. I took cooking lessons. I took dance lessons. I have a career I love. And I have amazing friends who come out on a Monday night in January weather to celebrate my birthday with me (and drink amazing tiki cocktails at Three Dots and a Dash).
And so in honor of my thirty-fourth birthday, I decided to write a totally narcissistic post on thirty four things I love about me…
1. When I put my mind to things, amazing things follow.
It’s something I forget sometimes. Because I’m lazy and have am plagued by a shit ton of anxiety so I give up before I have a chance to succeed or fail (wait, I’m supposed to be being positive here aren’t I…). But, when I actually push through those things, magic happens.
2. That I quit my job to travel. When I was 30.
A lot of people would never have the kind of courage to leave everything behind at thirty to travel the world. Especially when they’ve got a good thing going on back home. But I did it. People say I’m brave all the time and I say that I’m not. But yes, I guess I am kind of brave.
3. That I’m a good cook.
Maybe not Top Chef quality, but I can make a mean sweet and sour shrimp.
4. The way my face scrunches when I smile.
Have you ever seen me smile? My face bunches up into a million wrinkles. It took me a long time to appreciate that.
5. That I have an unhealthy obsession with pink.
Pink hair. Pink phone. Pink blog.
6. That I constantly want to better myself.
I love signing up for random classes to learn new things. Guitar. Drawing. Cooking.
7. That I can dance.
I am pretty awesome on the dance floor.
8. That I am unashamed in my love for all things sweet.
Doughnuts, milkshakes, ice cream, brownies, cookies. Just bring me chocolate. Now.
9. That I don’t take anything too seriously.
You have to be able to laugh through it all.
10. That I look best straight out of bed.
OK, you may not agree with this. But me + slept in hair + faded makeup = hot. Of course, I usually shower that away because it also = greasy.
12. That I was undefeated at high jump on my eighth grade track team.
A fact that I still brag about to this day.
13. That all I wear is fuzzy socks.
Because why would anyone want to wear non fuzzy socks?!?!
14. That I take things too far…in a good way.
When I get excited about something I get overly excited about it to the point where I take stupid jokes way too far. Like that time I started a fan club for someone at my high school, membership cards and all. You know, totally normal things like that.
15. I like to think I’m funny.
You think so too, right? RIGHT?!?!?
16. That I’m a 34 year old who is totally not ashed to read Baby-Sitters Club books on the train.
And cry over them. Because I definitely cry while reading Baby-Sitters Club books on the train.
17. That when I’m alone I spend most of my time dancing around and singing.
18. That I prefer the girliest cocktails ever over beer.
I like that about me. My credit card statement does not.
19. That I am totally fine not wearing makeup.
I often forget to even think about looking at my face before I go to work.
20. But that I’m also really into being girly.
Sometimes I just like cute dresses and bright lipstick. And mascara.
21. My tattoos. And my nose ring.
I got my first tattoo at 20 and my nose pierced at 21 and have never regretted either.
24. That I face my fears.
OK, so I may never bungee jump. But I push myself to do a lot of things that I’m afraid of doing.
25. That I’m a pretty decent photographer.
I mean, come on. ;-)
26. That my writing kicks ass.
I mean, come on. ;-)
27. That I’ve always lived life on my own terms.
I’ve always been the weird one. The one who chooses her own path. The one who refuses to be just like everyone else.
28. That I wear my heart on my sleeve.
Some may call me over emotional. And I may cry at the drop of a pin. But I love that about me anyways.
29. That I’m damn good at my job.
I really kind of am.
30. That I’ve been to more countries than most people will go to in their lifetime.
Despite not having gotten a passport until I turned 25.
31. That I’m always up for an adventure.
Ask me if I want to go someplace and I’ll probably say yes.
32. That I don’t look 34.
I’m totally fine with my age. But I’m also totally fine that no one things I’m out of my twenties.
33. That I have amazing people in my life who never question what I’m doing with my life.
Seriously. I hear so many people complain that their friends and family don’t support or understand their desires to travel and lead more unconventional lives. And I’ve never had anyone in my life question me.
34. That I have amazing friends who would come out to drink with me on Monday night in January.
Three Dots and a Dash tiki bar.
Doctor Funkhauser Cocktail at Three Dots and a Dash
Enjoying a tiki cocktail on my 34th birthday.
Coconut shrimp at Three Dots and a Dash.
Dead Reckoning Cocktail at Three Dots and a Dash
Flaming mango ice cream.
Painkiller Number 3 Cocktail at Three Dots and a Dash
Hi, I'm Val. I spent most of my 20s in a standstill, unable to pick which path in life I wanted to take. I wanted the nomadic life of a traveler but also wanted the husband, the condo, and the kitten named Bacon. Unable to decide which life I wanted more, I did nothing. When I turned 30 I’d had enough of putting my life on hold and decided to start “choosing my figs.” So, I quit my job, bought a one-way ticket to Europe, and have been traveling the world ever since. Learn more about me and my life list.