Sunday, February 6, 2011

Wedding Anniversary

To celebrate our 3rd wedding anniversary, Jeff surprised me with a day of spa, massage and an awesome meal at Chicago Cut steak house! He sent a romantic invitation to my office on Friday with the schedule and activities we will be doing on Saturday, which totally made my day!

We started at Urban Oasis in Gold Coast, where Jeff booked a therapeutic massage for me, and he got a relaxation massage. It was our first time to Urban Oasis, but it was one of the best massages I've had! Jeff researched and found many good reviews!

We then went to Chicago Cut by the river and had an amazing meal with a great view. For appetizer, I ordered their seared foie gras, which was unbelievable and the flavor and texture was head to head with the ones I had at River Cafe in NY. Jeff had a iceberg salad to start with. For our steaks, I had their prime fillet cooked perfectly medium rare. Jeff had their juicy bone-in rib eye. We also had their famous mac n cheese with crab meat, as well as their sauteed shiitake and oyster mushrooms. Jeff had been to Chicago Cut a couple months ago with the boys, and he thought I'd love it as much as he did. And he is right!

I felt so spoiled all day and very lucky to have such a thoughtful husband.

Thunder Snowstorm!

The biggest snow storm in decades in Chicago! The powdery snow storm came with thunder and lightening. We were able to get home early before the storm and be in the comfort of our home during the storm. We ended up with over 2 feet of snow! While Jeff was working hard shoveling, Scraps was having a lot of fun in our back yard!

Happy New Year of 2011!

We celebrated the New Year's Eve at Andy and Jessie's again this year! We brought some potstickers as appetizers. We celebrated over sparkling wine, champagne and toasts. We also played shiraz at the end of the night. Alcohol definitely made the game more fun and interesting :)

New Dishes

Jeff and I love Italian food. Though we frequent several of our favorite Italian restaurants in town, we love to cook and try new recipes together. It was our first try making Lasagna, and it was a success! I've always known it's not very hard to make lasagna, but I couldn't believe how easy this one is that Jeff found online. The finished dish was hearty, creamy and had the perfect ratio of pasta, cheese, meat and sauce. We loved it!

Scallops is one of our favorite shell fish. We found some really good ones in Whole Foods. This dish is basically Jeff's improvised creation. He marinated the scallops in salt and pepper and cooked them in olive oil with some white wine and mixed in with some linguine. I couldn't get enough of it!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Weekend morning indulgence

Fion and Eric's wedding present to us is a fancy espresso maker. Though we just started using it this year, we've been making yummy espresso drinks every weekend! Jeff loves strong coffee, so he usually makes 2-3 shots of espressos. Lattes, especially soy lattes, are my favorite drinks to make.

We got freshly ground espresso from a local cafe around the corner. Making our own espresso drinks has been our weekend indulgence. It's the simple kind of joy that makes me look forward to getting up earlier on the weekends!

Thanks, Fion and Eric! Every time we make a drink, we think of you!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Holiday Party

Jeff and I are blessed to have several groups of friends. For one of the groups of friends that we don't get to see very often, we take turns to host a holiday party every year. This group of friends are pretty much all Jeff's fraternity brothers and their wives who live in the Chicago suburbs (there are only 2 couples in addition to us that also live in the city).

This year, we were so excited to host the holiday party last Saturday! Since there were a total of 16 of us, we added another table in our dinning area, so everyone can enjoy a nice sit-down dinner. This Friday night was our first snow this winter, and it continued snowing throughout Saturday. I was worried it'd be such a hassle for everyone to come into the city Saturday evening, but we were so glad that everyone made it to our house!

I cooked a number of our favorite Chinese dishes, including beef chow mein with bok choy and shitaka mushroom, lettuce wraps, butterfly shrimp with garlic and peppers, sliced beef sirloin with home-made black pepper sauce, as well as string beans sauteed in diced garlic. We also prepared a couple of appetizers, including a cheese plate with crackers and salami, and also chicken and pork pot-stickers.

Before our dinner, Jeff asked me to elaborate on the menu. As I was describing the dishes, our friends commented that they sound like top chef dishes! As hosts, Jeff and I also toasted to a great holiday season and new year, as well as to the importance of our families and our friendship.

I was so flattered that everyone loved my cooking, and all of the dishes were wiped clean! It was such a prefect evening with great friends, and there really is nothing like catching up with friends over dinner and wine.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Busy Saturday Afternoon

After a delicious lunch at Lao Sze-Chuan in Chinatown, we did a couple seasonal projects, if you will, around our house.

Since we have several large trees in our backyard, at the end of autumn, there are always millions of leaves covering the entire yard. They are beautiful to look at, and I love the sound of stepping on them, but we've got to clean them before the snow comes. We had already filled 6 large bags of leaves a few weeks ago, and now it seems all of the leaves had fallen from all of the trees, we filled another 6!!!

The holiday season is coming up, so we put up our wreath and little Christmas lights around the railings of our stairs leading to our front door. Scraps was being a good boy sitting at the porch watching daddy put up the lights.

Jenny and Brian's Wedding

Jeff's cousin Jenny's wedding in mid October was a beautiful event!

The location for both their ceremony and reception was very unique - the Harrison Opera House in Norfolk, VA. Since Jeff's dad has many siblings, cousin weddings always feel like a family reunion!

We had so much fun spending time with many aunts, uncles and cousins during the weekend that we are looking forward to the next reunion!

Jeff's Birthday Party

We celebrated Jeff's 35th birthday by having an end-of-summer BBQ at our house and backyard. It was a really large party - we had 33 friends join us!

We prepared burgers, hot dogs, chicken, brats, as well as a few side dishes and desserts.

Everyone also brought an appetizer or drinks. I made lettuce wraps (生菜鸡松) for the first time based on a recipe from Jeff's mom. At first, I was quite nervous that it won't turn out as good, but it was surprisingly a success and was actually a huge hit at the party!

It was a rather chilly September day, so there were not a lot of people hanging out in our backyard.

Though the party was mostly to celebrate Jeff's birthday, he was helping me preparing for the party all day. He cleaned the house and tidied up the backyard, but also was in charge of grilling!

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Little Jazz and a Trip to the Forest

After a few trips this summer, Jeff and I decided to stay in town for Labor Day weekend for a little rest and relaxation.

On our date night on Friday night, we tried a new restaurant in our neighborhood, Rios D'Sudamerica, where we tasted authentic Peruvian cuisine. I've always wanted to find some unique ingredients to try, and for appetizer, we tried their grilled beef heart! It was pretty delicious, but there definitely is a certain gamy after-taste. For entrees, Jeff ordered the parrillada of marinated chicken, Argentinian sausage, lamb chops, fillet mignon and blood sausage. You can probably guess that Jeff gladly gave the blood sausage to me. I really enjoyed my Arroz con Mariscos, which we think is the better version of paella.

After my Yoga class on Saturday morning, we decided to check out the Jazz Festival in Grand Park. It's an annual event sponsored by the City. We relaxed with a glass of wine and beer and enjoyed the Chuchito Valdés Afro-Cuban Ensemble and Rene Marie Quarte. For dinner, Jeff took me to a dive, Miller's Pub, a couple of blocks away from the Grand Park. Though the decor may seem a little touristy, their food was very good, and I had a Sprecher root beer float that was extremely yummy!

We've been planning to take Scraps to trails outside of the city, so we went to the Wright Woods Forest Preserve on Sunday morning. It's about 30 miles north of the City. We "hiked" a few of the trails for a total of 2.5 miles. The air was fresher in the forest, and Scraps was so excited to be in the woods. Since there are quite a few runners and bikers, we had to leash him. There's also a little creek and a pond where you can fish. It was just a beautiful day that we spent in nature!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

One Sari, Two Weddings and a Full Party Bus

Raj and Amanda's wedding festivity was a three-day event in Michigan! We attended the traditional Indian wedding on Friday, as well as the "American wedding" on Saturday. It was our first Indian wedding experience, so we wanted to really be part of it. A few days before the wedding, a group of us went to Devon street to shop for saris and accessories before dinner at an Indian restaurant. Jenn, Jessica and I all got a sari, bangles and some head jewelries. Jeff and the guys borrowed kurtas from the groom's family as well.

The Indian wedding was beautifully set by a lake house. The groom arrived by the boat, and the entire ceremony was about 2 hours long with a lot of different rituals and prayers, which as very interesting to see.

The American wedding was at a farm house, which was very quaint and intimate. Taking us back and forth from the hotel to the weddings was a British double-decker! Most people brought drinks on the bus for the ride. After the American ceremony, cheering, singing and dancing filled the party bus!

Work and Pleasure in the Bay Area

After Banff, Jeff and I flew directly to San Francisco for a few days. I was there to attend our team conference for work, and Jeff was there for a few more days of vacation before he starts his new job.

During the short 3 day stay, we visited family and friends while making sure we tried a few local hot spots! Jeff stopped by his sister, Kien's acupuncture clinic that she recently took over in Mission area. While I was on a fishing trip with my co-workers, Jeff took the ferry across the bay and spent the afternoon in Salsalito. We also met up with my friend, Mimi and her boyfriend, Eric, in Chinatown for some yummy Sze-Chuan food. Jeff's good friend from junior high, Carm and his girlfriend, Andrea, now live in Russian Hill. We checked out their beautiful and spacious two-bedroom apartment before going to dinner at Farmer Brown, a characteristic restaurant that serves delicious southern cuisine. Kien also joined us for dinner that night!

To indulge Jeff and my love for fresh oysters, we went to the well-known Hog Island Oyster Co. by the bay for 3-dozen oysters and local beers and wine! It's always a treat to visit San Francisco. For some reason, it feels more like home to me than Chicago...

Oh Canada!

Baff might just have to be my new favorite place in Canada! Set in the heart of the Canadian Rockies in the province of Alberta, Banff is not only a perfect place for outdoor adventures, it also has an irresistible historic small town charm.

We were lucky to be able to spend a long weekend in Banff celebrating the wedding of our good friends, Andy and Jessica. We stayed at the famous Fairmont Banff Springs, and it was one of a kind experience. The majestic hotel was styled after a Scottish Baronial Castle and was first built in 1887. Actually, some of the interior actually reminds us of the hotel in the movie, "The Shinning"!

We arrived on Thursday with a group of friends. Thursday night was a fun get-together at the St. James Gate Irish Pub hosted by the bride and groom's families. Friday was the white water rafting trip! It was my first time white water rafting, and I was mortified at the beginning! I'm so glad that I did it though. We did a 2-hour upper canyon rafting through up to class 4+ rapids, finishing 20km downstream. Jeff was in heaven, as he really enjoyed rafting! He actually did class 5 in California several years ago.

The outdoor wedding ceremony on Saturday was beautiful. Andy got everyone teary-eyed when he choked up seeing his bride, Jessica, walking down the isle! It was an intimate wedding with about 60 family and close friends. The reception was at a smaller ball room in the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. The dance floor got crowded from the very beginning till the very last song! We had an unbelievable time, and it was one of the best trips we've taken this year so far.

Monday, July 5, 2010

July 4th Weekend

The weather was amazing! We had a lot of fun during the long weekend! We started the weekend by enjoying a nice dinner at Half Shell on Friday. As the night progressed, I met up with Katie and Jessica for some wine on Katie's new deck. Saturday was a full and incredible day -- We watched Germany defeated Argentina at a local bar, Tavern, at 9 am and had breakfast there as well. After the game, we walked around Bucktown and Wicker Park area with Scraps. We dropped off Scraps then stopped at a fun joint a few blocks from us, Northside, to watch the Spain/Paraguay game while having some lunch and a couple of frosty beverages. It was really a treat to be enjoying the soccer games, since we haven't been able to watch them during the day at work.

We then met up with Leyla and Charlie at Motel Bar near downtown to celebrate their engagement! In the evening, we went to a surprise birthday party for our friend, Raj. After I got home, the night continued on for Jeff, whose good high school friend, Darren, came to town from D.C. They went to Piece and Bar Louie by our house for a couple drinks.

On Sunday, we invited a few friends over to celebrate the 4th! Every couple brought a side dish, and we grilled marinated chicken breast, corn and assorted vegetables. Jen brought Fletch, who loved our kiddie pool. Marie and John also brought their son's kiddie pool, but Scraps and Fletch ended up taking that over as well...

New Kitchen Additions

Our new bar cabinetry was completed in mid May which gives us more storage space especially for glass wares. We selected the granite countertop that are very identical to the rest of our kitchen countertops. Since we couldn't bring our wine fridge from our old condo, we decided to install one here as well.

The beautiful antique mirror backsplash around our kitchen counter was finished a few weeks ago. It has unique "sunset" antique patterns. We love it because it's very rare (as oppose to granite/tile backsplashes), and I attribute this incredible idea to my designer!