Monday, March 31, 2014

Chicago Food!

We weren't in Chicago that long but we had some great food. Here are some pics of Lou Malnati's deep dish pizza and Frontera Grill.

Deep dish pizza is the bomb. I want more but I won't find it here in NC. But it was thick and gooey and wonderful.

We HAD to go to rick Bayless' restaurant Frontera Grill. We couldn't get in for dinner so we went for lunch. It was, frankly, amazing. We first ordered guacamole with chips. It was creamy and wonderful. It also came with a green sauce and a red sauce that were equally as delicious.

Tom ordered soft tacos with three kinds of meats: pork, chicken and beef. It also came with roasted green onions and peppers. I ordered the steak tacos. Both came with delicious and hot homemade tortillas. Mine also came with the most amazing beans. The beans were thick and spicy.

I got crazy and ordered dessert. I ordered a chocolate pecan pie with Kahlua whipped cream. It was so fantastic. I cannot even tell you how wonderful that dessert was. The whipped cream was absolutely creamy and you could taste the Kahlua. The pecan pie was moist and the crust flaky. I still dream about this pie. Seriously, I do.

And this is some obscene dessert we had at Cafe Iberico. It was like a crepe stuffed with ice cream and some berry sauce. It was delicious as well. This we had after eating tapas of tortilla espanola, chorizo, goat cheese with tomato sauce, olives and much more.


Friday, March 28, 2014

Chicago, Chicago that Toddlin' Town

My trip to Chicago was fantastic! We went because Tom had a conference and I tagged along. It was my first time there and I loved it.

The trip started with us arriving in the late afternoon to Chicago. We grabbed a cab and headed to our hotel. When we arrived at the hotel, check in was fast and easy. The room was great but we were starving! We had to decide where to eat. Luckily, my friend Melanie tweeted that I should try Cafe Iberico. So we headed there.

Cafe Iberico was fantastic. It had some great Spanish tapas. We ordered Sangria and a few tapas and had a great meal. It is so nice to have choices! We ordered tortilla espanola, chorizo, shrimp in garlic sauce, goat cheese in tomato sauce and much more. We were so hungry and tired I didn't even take pictures! I know, wth? After a fantastic dinner, we headed back to the hotel.

On Friday, tom has his conference all day long so I was left alone to my own devices. This is always bad. I had no idea what to do. Plus, it was so darn cold. I had a CityPass booklet that gave me entrance into several places so I decided that I would use one or two of the passes. I got dressed and headed out into the cold.

I decided to walk over to the Navy Pier to see what was there. I walked down by the river and then crossed the bridge. As I was walking, I saw two people standing on the street by a sign that said Chicago Trolley and Double Decker Bus. I stopped and asked what that was and they gave me the down low. They had taken the bus the day before and said it was a great deal. You could hop on and off at will and only cost $40.

Since I am lazy as sin and had so little time, I felt I would take this tour because I would be able to see a large part of the city and not have to walk! Score! So when the bus came around, I hopped on and went on an adventure.

It was so cold that no one was on top of the double decker bus. We all stayed down for a while. Our first stop was the Navy Pier. Then we headed to the Magnificent Mile, a shopping area. then we passed through some other smaller neighborhoods. We then stopped at the John Hancock Building. I wanted to go to the observatory but by this time I decided I would take the full tour and then come back later. From there we saw tons of other sites. The tour took about 2.5 hours.

We drove by the Bean, Art Institute of Chicago, Field Museum, the Planetarium, the Aquarium and Lakeshore Drive. Our tour guide, Harrison, was great. I not only saw a lot of Chicago but got a history lesson as well. We changed tour guides a few times. And when we reached the John Hancock Building I hopped out and went to the Observatory.

After the Observatory, I hopped back on the bus. By this time, although it was still very cold, I went upstairs because I wanted to see everything. I decided to hop off again close to the hotel because we were given a free t-shirt but had to go get it from their store. I hopped off and got my free tee. Then I started walking to the hotel. I was starving so I decided to get a bite to eat.

In willy-nilly Carolyn fashion, I started walking down side streets looking for food. I ended seeing a small restaurant called Billy Goat Tavern. It was small and open so I went in. It wasn't until I was inside and ordering my food that I realized that his was the place that was made famous by the Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger SNL skit. Who knew? So I ordered a cheeseburger and fries. The food was good, not great.

Then I headed back to the hotel that was a few blocks away. It was a long day but I saw a lot of Chicago and it was well worth. it. For dinner we headed out to have Deep Dish pizza. I never had it and we wanted to try it. We ended up at Lou Manelti's. OMG, deep dish pizza rocks the house. It was so different than the pizza I know. It was loaded with cheese and sausage and pepperoni and it was this huge delicious thing. We decided on a small pizza and that filled us up. I want more.

The next day, we headed over to the Bean at Millennium Park. It was a short walk away but it wa still cold. The Bean is amazing. It is one of the best sculptures I have ever seen. It was amazing. We headed over to the Art Institute of Chicago. Now if you have read my blog, you know I am not a museum person. I get bored easily but this museum was not bad.

We saw some awesome art before I got bored and wanted to leave. Tom, on the other hand, loves museums so I am always nice about going to a museum when we travel. After the Art Institute we headed over to the Frontera Grill. I have always wanted to go there because I love Chef Rick Bayless. I have watched his show for years. All I can say is the food wa AMAZING!!

We ate guacamole and chips. Then we both got soft tacos. Tom got a huge platter with chicken, pork and steak. I got steak and it was all good.  I wanted to eat more but didn't. I did, however, order the most fantastic dessert ever. I had chocolate pecan pie with Kahlua whipped cream. OMG, heaven.

Tom was a little sick on this trip so we headed back tot he hotel so he could nap. When dinnertime came around, we opted for room service because he was not well at all. So we had soup and sandwiches. It was a good thing because by the next day Tom was still not well.

The plane ride home was interesting. We got on the plane and took off and then about 20 minutes into the flight the pilot announces we were headed back to Chicago.  Apparently, a door was left open. They said a communications door but we never got a straight answer. But it was probably serious because we were already headed back tot he airport when the pilot made his announcement. And then he was flying super fast. Once we got close, the plane was allowed to land immediately.

It was definitely bizarre and a little disturbing. But once it was done, we got back into the air and arrived in Asheville safely. It was a fantastic trip and I definitely want to go back again. I loved Chicago.

Stay tuned. I will have more pictures!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

My hotel room video: Swissotel Chicago!

My hotel room video is back! We haven't traveled much except to Wilmington but I forgot to do the video there. But I did remember to do it in Chicago.

We stayed at the Swissotel. Tom was at a conference and that is why we ended up there. It was a great little hotel. It was clean, comfortable and nice. The staff was fantastic. Everyone was friendly and nice and we had no problems. Our view was fantastic.

Our room was cleaned early every day and I loved that. And let me tell you that the bed was one of the most comfortable ones I have ever slept in.  The location was fantastic. We were right on the river. The Navy Pier was just about a mile or so away. Millennium Park and the Art Institute of Chicago were about 3 blocks away. Would I recommend? Yes.




Wednesday, March 26, 2014

American Gothic at the Art Institute of Chicago!

We visited the Art Institute of Chicago on our trip to the Windy City. If you read my blog you know I am not a museum person. I can only take so much. After an hour or so, I get bored and need a break.

But this place was cool. They had some great paintings like Renoir's Two Sister, Monet's Water Lilies and A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat. They had art by Jackson Pollack, Georgia O'Keeffe, Dali, Picasso and so many more. I didn't feel right about taking pictures but I have always loved this painting by Grant Wood, so I took a pic.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Chicago was great!

We had a blast in Chicago and I have tons of pictures that I must edit and post. I am also super duper busy with my other blog and catching up. So don't expect any pictures until Thursday! Here is a bad picture of me at the observatory at the John Hancock Building. What amazing views!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Wilmington, our new home!

Well last week we headed over to Wilmington to check out our new home. We really like it. Luckily, Tom had his spring break so we could drive out for a few days. The drive is about 6 hours from where we live now. So it wasn't that bad but I get wickedly bored on road trips lately.

Anyhow, we arrived and checked into our hotel and headed out to have some dinner in downtown Wilmington. Downtown Wilmington is charming. It is riverside so it has little restaurants where you can sit outside and dine. It has little shops and stores. It is really funky as well. It is very hipsterish though and that is not my scene. But it has a lot to see and do.

We ended up at an Asian place. All I can say is that there are tons of restaurants there and that makes me happy because there is NOTHING in our current town that we like. So it is so amazing to be able to live in a place where there are restaurants. We walked around the area a little after dinner then headed back to the hotel.

While downtown is super charming there is also the commercial part of Wilmington that reminded me of Florida. It has the strip malls, chain restaurants, mall, and a little traffic. It certainly is more traffic than Sylva but not as much as a real big city and we liked that. It will take us some time to get used to that but the best thing is that you can get anywhere in Wilmington in less than 30 minutes and that includes going to the beach.

On Sunday, we had our realtor pick us up and we headed out ALL DAY to look at houses. We started early and saw a ton of houses. I would guess we saw every house in our price range. But it was good because during that time, we were able to see exactly what neighborhood we want to live in and which ones we don't want to live in. Our realtor was great because she also gave us a tour of the whole city.

We finished up around 5:00 pm that day and immediately had to get dressed and head out to a party that one of Tom's new co-workers was throwing for us. It was so nice of him and his wife to do so. And the party was great. We were able to meet most of Tom's new faculty and staff. Everyone was so nice and they were so excited that Tom took the job. It was nice to hear how he was the first choice. It was a little overwhelming though but we had a great time. We were beat by the time we got back to the hotel though.

Monday we headed out again with Teresa, our realtor. We saw more houses. We even saw a house where the movie "Blue Velvet" was filmed. I liked the house but it needed work and it was way too much house for us. And it was not in the neighborhood we liked. That day we also saw the house that we ultimately put an offer in. We knew it was the perfect neighborhood for us. Lots of space and walking paths and it is close to everything but not close enough that you feel like you are.

That night we went out and ate at a fantastic Asian restaurant called Indochine. It had a mix of Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese and other cuisines. Then we headed back to the hotel to rest. Then on Wednesday, we headed out again to see any other house that was available. We saw some that were nice but they weren't right for us. We saw a wonderful old home that was lovely but it was on a busy street and way too big for the two of us. The price was great but living on a main drag would be a drag.

Wednesday we headed out to the beach which is only 10-15 minutes from central Wilmington. We just drove around and then had to come back to the hotel because Tom had to head over to the University to attend meetings and fill out paperwork. I stayed in the room trying to catch up on emails and watch "Jaws" for the 256th time. Love that movie!! We then went out to have dinner and came back to get some sleep because we were leaving the next day.

Thursday we headed out without a house. We put in an offer and it was countered and we countered and they accepted. So on the way home we received the news. If all goes well and nothing is found in the inspection, we own another house. Now we just have to pack all our crap! We have lots of it too.

Overall, we really liked Wilmington. Tom liked it when he went on the interview and when he came back from the interview he was enthused. He liked the vibe, the university and the people. After meeting the people, I agree. All were very nice and made us feel welcome. I know it will take me time to get used to traffic and people again but it will be nice to live in a place where we have choices and options.

There is also big grocery stores, Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Target and other shops. No longer do we have to drive an hour to Asheville to see a movie. We have chain restaurants and other restaurants to enjoy. The river is amazing and we love the downtown area. We actually saw some condos in that area but we aren't city living people. We are house people. We also liked that regardless of where you live, everything is about 10 minutes away. Maybe a little longer with traffic. The historic area is lovely. And there is cultural events. And I might be able to find a good job there without having to dive 45+ minutes!

The area where the house is at is perfect. It is located on a huge street with a large greenway in the middle. People were walking their dogs, running, biking and walking. Plus, it is a quiet neighborhood but close to everything. I think it will be a great move for us.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Carolyn in Wilmington!

We have been in Wilmington this week, house hunting. This will be our new home. While out an about, we were downtown and Tom took this pic of me. I love it because it is in front of the Battleship USS North Carolina. I love the battleship and have no idea why. I have actually been on it and it was the coolest thing.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Vegetable Lasagna Recipe! #meatlessmonday

This can't be any easier to make. Plus, it is really tasty and you will not miss the meat in the dish. You can also use any vegetables and cheese you like. Make it one night when you want to go meatless and tell me what you think!

This is how I made it.

You need some pasta sauce. I used jar sauce in this recipe because I ran out of my summer tomato sauce. try to find a jarred sauce that is low in sodium. I used yellow squash,  mushrooms, eggplant, peppers and zucchini. But you can use other veggies. 

Cut the veggies up in thin strips. Coat them with olive oil and salt and pepper the veggies. Then toss them into a oven at 400 degrees until they are roasted. 

Once the veggies are roasted, set them aside. 

Warm up the sauce. I also added spices and onions to spice it up. 

Grate some Parmesan cheese and cut up some mozzarella cheese. 

I am wicked lazy so I used the no cook lasagna noodles. Put the noodles in the pan and start layering.

Add the sauce. 

Add the veggies.

Add the cheeses. And continue layering the ingredients until it fills the pan. 

Put into a 350 degree oven for about an hour or so. 

It's done. It's a hearty meal. Perfect for winter or summer because of the veggies. I prefer fresh tomato sauce but, in a pinch, I always grab my Ragu. I also love using different cheeses. I think a Fontina cheese would be delish in this recipe. I love serving it with garlic toast and a salad. 

Buen Provecho!