Saturday, October 27, 2012

Our Favorite Mexican Inspired Meals

45 minutes to this!

You'd be hard pressed to disappoint Greg and I with any Mexican food. It's pretty much our go-to for a guaranteed delicious dinner.

Here are our 3 favorites that are in heavy rotation in the Lockyer household. When you are only cooking for two, you even have leftovers!

Cilantro Lime Chicken Tacos with Mango Black bean Salsa

Southwestern Casserole

Santa Fe Chicken Tortilla Soup

Would love to hear of your faves.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

My Summer Must Do's

Does anyone else in Chicago actually stress over doing as many “summery” things during these months, with thoughts of our winters trying to push into your mind?
I honestly have a list of activities I need to squeeze in to make me feel better about accomplishing enough of the fun things that Chicago offers during our summer. Thankfully I have a husband who is generally up for anything.
Here are my must-do’s:
Long Bike Rides- Once you get south of Navy Pier, the path thins, and the views are just so gorgeous. We love to hop on our bikes, and bought a bike rack this year that needs to be put to use on some other trails.
Holstein Park Pool- I absolutely love we have a nearby (free) pool that is great to soak up some summer rays, people watch, and frolic in the cooling water.
Neighborhood Fests- Admittedly, I find that a lot of our festivals kind of all feel the same to me, but if we don’t have anything going on, and there’s a festival within walking distance, it’s a fun way to spend a few hours. We’ve hit up Do Division & West Fest so far this summer.
Ravinia- Hello Beautiful. We need to pack & picnic & get out there.
Music in Millennium Park- All summer there are amazing free shows that are just asking for you to spread a blanket and pop a bottle of bubbly. Last summer we took some friends from out of town with 2 small children, and it was so much fun, allowing the kids to run & roam, while enjoying new music and gorgeous city vies. Although I have enjoyed a quiet lunch in the park, we haven’t made it here for evening entertainment yet in 2012. We will be rockin’ it out to My Morning Jacket in August.
The Beach- I love love love a weekend afternoon on the beach. Put the cubs game on the radio, check out the hot bods playing beach volleyball, and revel in the fact that we have Lake Michigan at our door step.
Movies in the Park- I really wish the Movies were a better selection, but nonetheless, we need to make it to one this summer.
Reading/Picnics/Anything in your local park- Ours is Wicker Park. Get outta the house and plop yourself in a little grassy patch. You won’t regret it.
Go Cubs Go! I’m a fan, and a weeknight bike ride to Wrigley for a game is my definition of a good time.
Other Ideas:
Paddleboarding in Evanston on Lake Michigan, Al Fresco Dining (so many choices), Kayaking the Chicago River,  evening walks for ice cream, Theater on the Lake, Kane County Flea Market, Jazzin’ at the Shedd.
Now get out there are enjoy summer.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A spoonful of sugar

Husbands are there to reach the casserole dish on the top shelf. They are there to carry bikes out of the basement. And to walk for morning coffee while you read "just another few pages". And, husbands are there to let you know you ruined a perfectly healthy bowl of cereal with a spoonful of sugar. The cereal is no longer calling my name. That is all.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Getaway to Horse Country

Fond memories of Spring trips to Keeneland throughout my childhood sparked a weekend getaway for Greg and I. I'd awaken early with my father to watch the horses train with a chill in the air. Come noon our family would head to the race track to embark on a day of crowds, $2 bets, and me choosing my favorites based on the horses braids or the colors of the jockeys silks.

Keeneland was everything I'd remembered. Greg and I failed miserably at winning big, but cocktails, sunshine, and watching horses was just what I had wanted.  Our only ticket to cash was a bet my Dad had me place for him. Pathetic. We tried the long shots, tried exacta boxes, tried the favorites. FAIL FAIL FAIL. Ha.

My memories of Lexington were a bit glamorized, I learned. Funny how good times really make a place feel like heaven. I would highly recommend visiting for a few days during racing season to experience the most beautiful horse racing track but downtown Lexington was a bit underwhelming. We did find the what I will deem a great breakfast joint (thanks yelp). Hello cheese grits, biscuits, and beignets! Go check out Doodles for your fix.

Friday, March 30, 2012

My Ultimate Mixer

Give me a good cocktail and good conversation and I'm pretty darn happy.There are definintely a few spots in Chicago that hit the nail on the head when it comes to mixing a delicious drink.

Most know of The Violet Hour, and it's worth every bit of the $12 they charge for a drink. I stick with vodka & gin as my primary alcohol, and every item on their menu is beautiful and delicious. Granted, I won't go when there is a line (that's a rule of mine since college) and I think their service is a little on the slow side, but once you have a drink in hand, it's the perfect spot.

The Barrelhouse Flat is also amazing. I believe one of the owners used to be a mixologist with the Violet Hour, and it shows, with a similar flare in their drinks.The atmostphere on the 2nd level is perfection and I pretty much recommend it to everyone in Lincoln Park.

My last can't miss spot is Acre in Andersonville. The food & drinks make for a perfect date night.

Greg has become my at-home mixologist. We've recently ventured into a bottle of St. Germain.  I was feeling splurgy one night. Mixed with Champagne will wow you. The vieux mot is delicious and our current drink of choice. In fact, I have one in hand now. Check this site out for every recipe you could imagine with St. Germain.

I can't wait for summer punches.

I'd love to hear if you have any must-experience spots for a great drink.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

2 Days in Savannah

Savannah, GA is one of my sweet spots in this country. I've had the opportunity to get to know this charming town the past couple of years and found myself there again last week. Sweet tea, shrimp & grits, and sunshine. That's a recipe for a happy Rachel.

One of my favorite things to do when traveling for work is going out for a run, just to wander through the area and hope to find fun spots along the way. It's a great way to scope out the town, and you're able to cover a lot more territory than just walking.

In my visits to Savannah, I always make it a point to take a run or walk through Forsyth Park.  I can't imagine a person not loving this park. It is absolutely beautiful with fountains, trees, and people enjoying all sorts of outdoor activities; tennis, rugby, personal training, jogging, picnicking, playing with their dogs. It's heavenly. Go there!

I will also go on record of saying that I had the best meal in my memory at The Olde Pink House in Savannah. This was 2 years ago, and since then I haven't stopped recommending it. It's an evening to remember, and your stomach will thank you. My meal consisted of fresh flounder, grits, the best fried green tomatoes, all their specialties.

I prefer shopping for home goods any day to clothing, and One Fish Two Fish as well as No.411 fit the bill.  Can my condo looks like one of these shops like... tomorrow?

My latest discover just last week, was a bakery that screamed my name. This girl right here enjoys her sweet treats! Back in the Day Bakery is a little off the beaten path, and well worth it. I enjoyed a late lunch of Back * Onion Jam Panini and an Old Fashioned cupcake. YUMM. And... I bought their new cookbook which has both of these recipes in it! I see lots of flour & sugar scattered in my kitchen in the near future.

A few days in Savannah is definitely good for the soul. If you make it there, put these spots on your itinerary and you are in for a great time.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Prep & Party- A Chicago Wedding

Six months ago this week was Greg and my wedding. Yes, it was absolutely lovely. Yes, it was a whirlwind, and I literally ate only cupcakes after spending lots of moolah on the perfect blend of foods to serve. Now that I am an experienced bride, I feel both obligated and entitled to offering a little advice on how to most enjoy "your" day.

Let me preface my advice by saying I am the queen of budgets. I don't over-pay, but I do pay for good quality. Greg and I are lucky enough to be able to afford a few splurges here and there, but I took many steps to keep from giving myself an ulcer over the $$$ involved in one day.
I was the anti-bride in many ways. No big bridal party, no mile long registry, no ordering around my now-husband with frivolous tasks that no one notices. With that being said, there were many parts of our wedding weekend that were so important to me, and for those items I was a perfectionist, and am glad.

First and foremost- Hair & Makeup. Hire the best and look gorgeous. You'll look amazing, feel amazing, and it is really nice to look at photos and not think "Ugh, I hate the way I look". I really want to tell every bride in Chicago to stop worrying about it, and just hire Krysten & Samara of Bridal Beauty Chicago. They are fun, easy to be around, and don't make a fuss. I was full of nervous energy (& champagne cocktails) on the big day, but they just set up shop in our suite and we all loved them. I had already met them for a trial, and they take tedious notes, pictures, and actually got to know my vision, and it worked perfectly! I thank them for me feeling super glam for my wedding.

Photographer- Again, hire the best. I'm convinced that after an absurd about of research on photographers that I ended up with the best in the city. It was a splurge, we will have these photos forever, and I imagine our kids & grandkids thinking how cool we used to be when looking at our photos. Peter Thompson was everything we could have imagined for our photographer, and more. His eye is amazing, and he captured our style perfectly. Peter & his assistant walked into our suite and completely made themselves at home and ready for 10 hours of shooting. Hire him!  Yes, there are a few shots I wish we had, like more of Greg and I with my nieces, but we were all having too much fun to worry about getting all the shots. And well, the nieces walked down the aisle like perfect flower girls, and I couldn't bear to ask them to stop eating cupcakes or dancing just so I have a few more photos.

My groom didn't want to see me prior to me walking down the aisle, so we scheduled an after-shoot a few days later, where he and I could go to a few hot spots in the city and take our time getting photos. It certainly took away from the rush of photos on wedding day, but getting all dolled up again was a bit of a pain. Not sure that I have the perfect solution to this, but it worked for us.

I am admittedly a hotel snob, and I like the think I hit it out of the ballpark with our hotel. I wanted out-of-town guests to stay in a place that let them see Chicago as we see it. No Michigan Ave. for me. I knew  PUBLIC Chicago was going to be perfect for us. The Near North location allowed for walks along the lake, strolls down tree-lined streets, and was absolutely beautiful. We had booked a suite for 3 nights and I was ready to move in. BEAUTIFUL! The hotel used to house the Ambassador East Hotel and unveiled a newly done Pump Room, which was frequented by hollywood stars in years past. There was Chicago history, but it was at a whole new level of class. And, when they saw me walk in with my gown on it's hanger we were treated likely royalty. Nothing better than good customer service. I highly recommend the hotel for just about anyone.

Location- After being shot down on the thought of eloping, I knew the perfect spot for our wedding & party. I'd gone to a charity event a few years back at A New Leaf and remember telling a friend, "Oh this would be a fab place to have a wedding." Guess I know what I like. I love pretty much everything about A New Leaf. Our ceremony was on their 3rd level, we had multiple levels for celebrating, and a beautiful courtyard where the party ultimately led. Think gorgeous exposed brick walls, natural character, and a hidden gem amongst the bustle of N. Wells St. One of of the most convenient features was the fact that we didn't have to coordinate any sort of transportation. Guests could cab it, walk from the hotel, and didn't have to think about getting from the ceremony to the reception. We said our I Do's and 5 minutes later folks were grabbing their first drink in celebration.

A New Leaf also handled our flowers, and I really think they were the most perfect arrangements for us. I literally spent 20 minutes with my assigned flower coordinator talking through different pieces, showed her a few photos of what I like, and that was set. I always thought I'd have a heck of a lot of peonies, but they weren't in season. Get over it. In season flowers are better. They are less costly, in better condition, face it, there are a ton of gorgeous flowers out there to choose from.

I knew from the get go I wanted live ceremony music. There's something about the sounds of a violin & cello that makes my heart swoon. Dolce Strings were amazing. Easy to work with, played absolutely beautifully, and well there was no wondering  about anything. These ladies are professionals! Now if only I had a fancy party to host so that I could hire them again.

The above 4 vendors are my major recommendations for any lady planning her Chicago wedding.

Some other Tips & Thoughts:
* Offer to pay cash to all of your vendors (assuming you have the cash). Not all will accept, and others will knock of 10%! This literally saved us thousands of dollars. The hassle of going from your bank to your vendor with a wad of cash is totally worth it.
* My least favorite part of a wedding is the sit-down dinner. It's a total lull in the fun. I didn't want that lull, I wanted a party. We had lots of food, and really delicious food (well I really only know from the tasting), but people could get whatever they liked at different stations. I loved this concept, but I wish someone would have brought Greg and I a couple of plates of food at some point. I was never without Champagne & always without a bite to eat.
* I don't understand designer dresses. Well I do, but my pocketbook does not. You can find your perfect dress without going into debt. Really does it all have to be hand sewn & Italian silk? The answer is no. It's totally fine to drive to a far southwest suburb and end up bridal shop, in a strip mall, with hot pick carpeting. It's just fine!!
* Day after Brunch- My 5-year old niece graciously hosted a brunch for all of our family. Greg and I finally ate!!! Hub 51 put together a schmorgesborg of food for our group of 35 people. This allowed for us to spend some quality time mingling with our family, and a nice relaxed atmosphere for folks to start sharing stories from the previous night.
* Greg was into Cigars and the Beer selection. He literally spent 6 months choosing what craft beers would be served. Totally fine with me. I had Greg give his approval in items, but for the most part, I was the key decision maker. It worked for us. Communicate with your groom and it'll all be fine.
* Greg and I both laugh about the serious levels of dry mouth each of us experienced pre-ceremony. Have a bottle of water with you for this moment. We were sooo thirsty!
* Touch-up your lipstick. Yes this is trivial, but it buds me! My lips have no color, and I'm pretty sure I never put on any additional makeup after the pro finished me up. Wish some of the late night photos had my pop of pink on my lips.

Greg and I had a blast throughout our entire wedding celebration. And, I still haven't had my dress cleaned & preserved so I suppose there is still something on my to-do list.

There's enough advice to keep you up at night planning your wedding. Enjoy!