G is for Going Underground


G is for Going Underground.

Holy moly, now that the Airstream is on the move...it's time to get down and dirty on the road.  This little silver nugget feels straight up luxe.  No projects to complete, no tile to buy, to decisions to be made.  Just one huge shopping trip at Camping World and a farmers market run this weekend and we are sorted.  The headroom alone just blows my mind - should have done this months ago (granted, who knew the Flo would take so long...and I do so love living on the run).

That said, Mexico is right around the corner...literally on the horizon of the new year.  All my old haunts are 'this' much closer to being right out my front door.  Primo sushi and sunsets at Carlitos Place; perfect surf after a couple margs at Cerritos; kite surfing attempts in Las Ventanas; crazy fresh yellow tail at Rancho Pescadero; random snapshots of movement up and down the Baja; stars by the gazillion; whale birthing season in Magdelena Bay; Minka Mouse chasing birds on deserted beaches; a possible land purchase down near Loreto; a couple of cold beers here and there, but mostly frosty margaritas; researching the TV show I'm gonna craft in the nowhere sand dunes (think conspiracy/espionage/traitors/esoteric vibes); cooking up a storm - meaning finally mastering cooking a whole fish; homemade ceviche from just caught fish; slowly kayaking the Sea of Cortez; finally diving again (Indo seems so long ago); searching out a new 4th World Love CDC (for those who can't make it to Indo); remote spots that only solar can reach; and buckets of all the goodness that makes up Mexico. 

It will be real, real, real tough to come back across that border, I can tell ya that much.  Going underground HAWDDDDDDDDD.

I will just be devastated if the Mayans called it.

















Bank-Rollin' on Chicagos Best Dives {From The Raving Dish}


Since November of last year, I've been on the road. Ever read Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck? Well, my adventure-filled trip was reminiscent of that book; throw in a few Mexican outlaws, some rowdy Muslim school kids, a solar-panel vintage travel trailer and a slew of blink-and-they-might-just-kImg_2566ill-ya locals in the Virgin Islands and you've got the gist of my journey. Winter's not my thing anymore, so I was off volunteering on a small island in Indonesia, checking out a beautiful sailboat perched in a small bay near St. John in the Caribbean, driving from Chicago all the way to the Eastern tip of Mexico (literally to the Belizean border), driving back from Mexico up to Los Angeles for a few months of work and finally, I pulled the long haul from the West Coast to the remote mountains of Tennessee to visit with my parents. It's been a glorious but really rough, road-weary ride.

Ahhhh, but now the time has finally come to head home to Chicago. It's just for a week (another month in Bali is coming up) but I can already taste the food—all that fantastic food that I only seem to find in the back woods of Mexico, the deep jungle of Indonesia or the dusty streets of Chicago.

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Sand = A Proper Souvenir

Img_2796_3I'm not a souvenir person at all.  Rarely do I return with anything from my travels except a full journal, a million pictures and maybe a small painting or kitchen tool.  What I do return with however is a small plastic bag of the local beaches sand. When I get home, I place the sand in a small glass jar, label it and add it to my collection.  I find it absolutely fascinating that sand can have so many hues pending on what part of the world I'm in.  The whitest sand EVER I picked up on a tiny atoll called Sandbanks Island in Zanzibar. I's sailed out to the tiny speck to go snorkeling and have a lobster BBQ on the beach; and the blackest sand I've come across has come from the coast of Seminyak, Bali.  Some days when the sky is grey and the wind is rattling my windows, I just stand and gaze at the row of sand on my fireplace mantle and conjure up all my travel tales, especially the food.  I guess it all goes back to food in the end.
*Interestingly enough, I'm headed to the BVI (St. John and Tortola) in a few weeks to look at a sailboat there--I've never been to that part of the Carib, so I'm excited to see what kind of sand I can haul home~and what kind of local treats I can stumble upon.

Bought It~~~$300 Bones Is All

Dscf1417Before I left for Spain back in May, I had seen this awesome painting at an art shop near my place in Roscoe Village and had all intentions of  buying it...but of course, I got all swamped with packing and planning that I was never able to make it back.  Well, a few weeks ago, Roscoe Village was having its annual sidewalk sale and the chick who paints these glorious paintings (Beth Pearlman) was there whipping up some new stuff.  What luck!  After a mimosa or two, I had a chat with her about the painting (the one I wanted was gone when I got back from Spain) and she agreed to create on for me... and deliver it.  Yeah!  I was so happy.  This painting reminds me so much of my old sailboat in LA and all the time I've spent neat the ocean...especially trips to Yelapa, Mexico and catching squid with a spear.  That is me on the boat, totally in awe and slightly terrified of course...I just love it.  I wanna redo my whole place based on these terrific colors--
If you dig this artist (she can literally create anything and the paintings are done on glass...I love that she stains the old wood)--you can check out some of her stuff online at bethaholic.com.

Sacred Art: Best Gallery in Chicago

Dscf0884My favorite gallery in all of Chicago is called Sacred Heart and it's smack dab in the middle of my 'hood, Roscoe Village.  The owner, Sarah Seyedin, is super-cool and prices the art so affordably---literally, she makes it so every day folks can afford to buy on a regular basis.  I was just in there today and I noticed this AMAZING piece of work strung up on the wall.  This artist is so talented and paints the most creative murals on glass paned windows.  I've been admiring her work for some time and this one I think I have to buy--I love the wild bright color of the octopus mixed with the soothing blue of the ocean and the wide-eyed girl on the sailboat tops it off---that's me in a nutshell.  Reminds me of all my trips to Mexico (especially the trip to Yelapa where we caught an octopus off the side of a fishing boat in the middle of the Pacific and my epic trip to Baja where I learned to sail in the brilliant Sea of Cortez) and makes me happy and excited about all the trips that I've not yet taken. If you make it over to my neck of the woods, check it out:
Sacred Art
2040 W. Roscoe St.

The Warm Weather is GONE~

Dscf2129You know that warm streak of weather we've been having for the past few months?  Yeah, well...it is officially finito.  And, if you are anything like me, that news is devastating to your soul.  Walking to my office this morning, I was plotting and planning how the hell to get out of the city for the entire winter (thank god I'm headed to the warm  shores of Nicaragua in a few weeks).  That being said, I've been meaning to post this picture for while, ever since I took it at the Maxwell St. Market a few months ago, because it is just the epitome of summer to me.  Bright pink wedges of watermelon mixed with foamy green washes of cucumber.  Both crispy, both in season and both dreamy...especially when I think of eating them right now in 20 degree weather.  My thoughts as I ambled to the office?  "This weather is a bunch of bullcrapola."  Enough said.  Oh, the trek to warmer weather will be a bold midnight move, if ever there was one.  Stay tuned for dispatches~

Killer Margaritas, Random Bakeries and Pakistani Dives: What Memories Are Made Of~

Dscf0978_1Memories are such wonderful tools.  Sometimes,they fuel your every move and can sway an idea or a thought, just like that, without you even knowing.  That is what happens when I am away from Chicago...all my memories come flooding back.  And, it's never the bad stuff, just the glorious little tidbits that make up that big 'ole girl.  I remember how I love to walk to the bookstore everyday (it's called research) and take my camera with me knowing that I'm going to happen upon some tiny bakery with freshly baked cookies along the way; how I traipse up and down Roscoe Ave. checking out the new seasonal menus posted at my favorite restaurants; how I enjoy walking to my office, but taking a totally new route and discovering some off-the-beaten-path Pakistani dive just aching to be taste-tested; how I go nuts online and order hundreds of dollars worth of great adventure/food/travel books and they start showing up at my doorstep one by one, ready for me to devour; how I love twirling around the strawberries in Cesar's straight-up killer margaritas and slurping them down to the last drop (hi, hangover at 3 pm); how I love late night Italian sub runs from Mr. Sub (and, after shoving down a 6-incher with Cheetos, claiming that "I definitely DO NOT eat meat"); how I can lost in a brand new neighborhood every week and still feel like there is so much left to uncover.  Really the good times never end in Chicago and no matter where I'm at in the world, I'm always jonesing to get back home and blaze a new trail around every corner that I've not touched. As a side note: Heading home also means time to dive into a margarita and reacquaint my self with the city.  Right on~

Muscadine or Muskydime Grapes...Either Way, They're Addictive

Dscf2822Being from the South, muskydime (the proper spelling is muscadine, but my little ears always heard MUSKY DIME) is a word that I've heard my entire life; muskydime grape perserves were always rolling around somewhere in the house and really, I just love the word.  A few weeks ago, I was home in TN and my parents had this gigantic bowl full of huge grapes out for snacking.  It's always about, "What are we snacking on?" every time I go home and I just thought these grapes were awesome.  So big and plump, just soaking in a big bowl of water (I guess so little gnats don't eat 'em up), ready to be tore into.  They're funny little grapes because the minute you pop them in your mouth, you bite into the skin, slurp the actual interior out (it's really slimy) and even with the big hard seeds, let that whole loose ball slide right down your throat.  No chewing, no nothing.  And, you're left with this somewhat bitter skin to toss about with your tongue and eventually, I just spit that part out.  My parents the whole thing, skin and all, but I just like playing with the skin in my mouth.  I could literally chew on one for hours.  I guess that's kinda gross~whatever, though.  I've never seen these up here in Chicago, so it's just another thing to do while I'm home, chillin' with a grape skin.

Tamales, Tamales & More Tamales

Dscf2109My first encounter with real-deal tamales came a handful of years ago at a friends house.  She had invited a slew of folks over to help her make 50 lbs. of tamales (what for?  who knows!) from scratch and I was lucky enough to get an invite.  I remember walking into the maiz-scented house and thinking, Wow!  I have entered another world, one that could be a small  kitchen in a tiny village in Mexico, where all the women get together and churn out hundreds of tamales stuffed with pork, peppers and cheese.  I quickly threw myself into the fold and was soon up to my elbows in cornmeal, pork lard and corn husks.  Those delicious tamales set the scene for all future tamale encounters and I've rarely tasted better than what was whipped up that afternoon. 
That being said, there is a tiny tamale stand on Maxwell St. (can't remember the name, but it is on the east side of the market, on the south side of Roosevelt) that doles out hundreds of tamales every Sunday to anxious customers (there is always a short line).

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Dscf2236Goma-ae has to be one of my all time favorite Japanese dishes.  I just love the taste of the hyper fresh spinach, the sweet sesame dressing and the crunch of the little sesame seeds.  I once made this dish (about 8 years ago) and I remember being stunned that the sweetness came from the crushed sesame seeds and just a little bit of sugar...I couldn't believe that the seeds were that sweet and creamy in their own right.  The ingredients were simple; miso, spinach, sesame seeds and sugar and the results were legendary (at least in my own culinary library).  It was literally one of the first times I'd made anything Asian and I was delighted with my end product.  I think I got the recipe from the Moosewood cookbook (those were the days when I lived in LA and I'd hike Runyan Canyon  for an hour, drink smoothies for breakfast and then slam down a huge bowl of chocolate mousse for dinner).  I guess I still have those crazy habits and really, does the sweet tooth ever go away?  I'm sure that's why I love the goma-ae...it's the sugar, not the spinach.  Rather, the sugar makes the spinach good.  Let's just face facts, I guess I just love sugar~