Sydney Smiles

Sydney Smiles: January 2010

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Letters to, from, and about Railway Systems.

Dear Sydney Subway System,
You are so darn cool, we really really wish we were like you. You know how you can flip your seats so your passengers can sit facing either direction (oh my goodness - that is sooo cool) well here in Chicago we are trying to be like you. Look at the above picture, our seats move too!!! How cool are we? Okay okay, no you can't switch the seats to be facing the other direction but, we can move the seat up and out of the way for handicap access. Should the seat be up like that right now? Well, no, but gosh Sydney you guys are so cool we just want to be like you and well let's face it - this is all we got, so we might as well flaunt it, right?
With love and admiration,
Chicago Subway System

Dear Chicagoans,
Have you ever noticed that there always seems to be a Dunkin' Donuts right next to all "El"* stops? Well I sure noticed and I decided to snap this picture while waiting for the train at the Bryn Mawr Redline stop. Can you find the Dunkin' Donuts?
*To all non-Chicagoans the "El" is what we call the subway system here in Chicago. It is actually developed from shortening the word elevated, as you can see from this picture many subway stops in Chicago are elevated.

I used to live with Europeans; aka I can cook!

My time studying abroad in Aberdeen, Scotland living at the "international flat" with 5 flatmates from various European countries taught me how to cook. Now, I am not claiming to be able cook as well as some of my former flatmates, but I learned how to make some things that most Americans do not know how to do for example I can make pasta with white sauce from scratch. Yes, that is right ladies and gentlemen, without a jar of pre-made sauce! I took some pictures for your enjoyment of my cooking adventures.

Above is a picture of all the ingredients I used. Chicken, oinion, baby eggplant, leek, garlic, mushrooms, heavy whipping cream, extra virgin olive oil, red pepper, parmesan, and whole grain spaghetti noodles.

Well folks to tell you the truth, I had a whole series of pictures to show you... but blogger hates me... so I am just going to go ahead and post just a few out of order, because let's face it that is the only way blogger will allow me too.

Oh well you can't win 'em all.

If you want to make a white pasta sauce yourself here is what you do.

1) Always start by sauteing the onions.
2) Add other vegetables.
3) Add chicken & spices.
4) Add heavy whipping cream.
5) The cream will start to thicken after it has been cooking a while. Feel free to add cheese to the sauce.
6) Add to noodles which you should have started to cook about the time you added the cream to the sauce.

Okay, I realize I didn't give the best directions, but honestly if anyone is really interested if you ask questions I will answer. For the most part I am very relaxed in the way I cook. I don't use exact amounts and count down the minutes. I change the recipe all the time and don't feel bad about it. Use any veggies you like, use the cheese you like, etc. etc.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Dear Blogger

Dear Blogger,
What the heck??? I believe I have been trying to format this blog entry FOREVER. Pictures disappear and captions run amok. I give up. Please stop messing with me by the time I decide to return to you.

Monday, January 25, 2010

One Blurry Year

I went for a walk today and thought of her.
One blurry year has passed in a moments time.
It hasn't been easy. It's been hard. It's been sad.
It's been difficult to understand why God would take my mother at age 47.
On a personal level she wasn't ready to die, she wanted to live.
Cancer, and more importantly God, had other plans.
Though it hasn't all been bad.
I try to hold on to the happy times.
I speak to her still, silently in my head, I imagine she can hear me.
I can take her anywhere with me.
I hope she enjoyed the views of the Harbour Bridge.
I know I did.
Her death has taught me to embrace life.
To live the life I want.
To not hold back.
To love and to forgive.

*I took this picture on my walk today. It seemed fitting on a day like today.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Let's watch it in the Spring

"Let's watch it in the Spring." my Mom said as we attempted to watch a movie I bought her for Christmas in her hospital room January of last year. They had just come to give her pain medicine and as the medicine was strong she was about to be out of it very soon and she knew it. She told me that we could finish watching the movie in the Spring when I came home from graduate school. I was leaving my hometown and my mother the next day to return to Chicago and to my studies. She sent me on my way with promising thoughts of Spring.

I wasn't in Chicago very long, a week and a half, before I was told it would be best if I could return home as soon as I could.

When I returned, she looked like she aged 20 years in the short time I was away. Could this be my mother lying there? Could this be real? I smiled and tried to pretend I couldn't recognize the look of death on her face.

She lay on a hospital bed in the living room. The place was usually full of company. To be honest, I didn't even know all of the visitors names. The tv was always playing in the background. One night, after everyone else had gone, I turned the channels of the television only to find the movie we had been watching in her hospital room a few short weeks before. I thought about watching it, but then I thought "no, let's watch it in the Spring."

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Taste of Peru

I got the chance to try Peruvian food for the first time the other day. Verdict - pretty darn good. :-) The restaurant was called "Taste of Peru" and claims to be the best kept secret in Chicago. I'm not sure how much of a secret it really is though as it is about to appear on the show Dinner, Drive-ins, and Dives.

I love trying foods from different places around the world. In a world where we can't always be traveling trying foods from other cultures brings a little bit of that place to us.

What to drink? What to drink? Hmm... a purple corn and pineapple drink? Sign me up - one chicha morada please.

What to eat? What to eat? Oh man! It is always so hard deciding what to eat when you are at a new restaurant - and even more difficult when you are at a restaurant with a cuisine you have never tried before. I ended up going with the saltado de camarones

Here it is - the chicha morada and boy was it yummy!!! There is such as a thing as purple corn? Let me tell you what purple corn was new to me and I have to say this drink was lovely. In addition to the purple corn and pineapple this drink is spiced up with cinnamon and chives. Yum yum yum.

The meal started out with an avocado salad. It was a very tasty salad, all though I probably did not need such a big salad with my main entree still yet to come. Live and learn.

I believe this dish was called pollo de vino??? This is the dish my friend ordered. I tried a piece of the chicken and I have to say it was pretty good.

Saltados de camarones: I was a bit surprised when this arrived. I didn't realize the dish would come with rice as I knew it came with french fries. Well ladies and gentlemen, it came with both, and let's just say that was not a bad thing.

A close up shot of one of the shrimp. They cut it down the middle and it ends up cooking up a bit swirly.

Alfajores!!! Mmmm mmm mmm, short bread cookie with caramel filling and dusted with powdered sugar. I really enjoyed this dessert. I could taste some of the same spices used to make the chicha morada, very lovely and not too sweet.

Here is the evidence that "Taste of Peru" may not be Chicago's best kept secret for long. Spray painted on the wall is the evidence that Guy Fieri has visited the restaurant for an upcoming episode of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.

So, boys and girls, if you are in Chicagoland and looking to try something new why not give Peruvian food a shot and check out Taste of Peru.

Friday, January 15, 2010

♥ I am in love ♥

Do you know that feeling when your heart soars and you just "know" that you are in love? Well friends, that is exactly what happened to me yesterday complete with starry eyed appreciation for the object of my affection. I feel it is now time to declare my love to the world.

Dear World,
Meet my beloved.

Love my Shoes Ladies this site is fabulous! They really have some great deals! To give credit where credit is due, I came across this site as a result of building up the fashionista section of my google reader. The Budget Babe actually blogged about and I have to agree it is a wonderful site! Below is a slideshow of some of my favorite deals. Check out the red zipper boots "Addiction 53 by Anne Michelle." How could one not feel "bad ass" in a pair of red zipper boots? LOL. :-)

Here are some links to a few steals:

NESHA 42 SUEDE by Qupid Original $75.00----- Sale $19.97

ADDICTION 53 by Anne Michelle
Original $95.00 ----- Sale $29.97

PHEFE 09 by Goodchoice
Original $129.00 ----- Sale $29.97

TRIPIN by Chinese Laundry
Original $175.00 ---- Sale $49.97

VINO 09 by Yoki
Original $109.00 ---- Sale $19.97

SAMI-LEA by Dollhouse Original $95.00 ----- Sale $29.97 (This shoe earns extra points for sharing my namesake)

LINK 26 by Bamboo
Original $79.00 ---- Sale $19.97

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I ♥ blogs!!!

Bloggy blogger blogs!!! The past few days I have been scouring the internet for the best and most entertaining blogs. First and foremost - I expat blogs!!! My very first blog was started to chronicle my study abroad semester in Aberdeen, Scotland - and let's just say the affinity for the travel/expat blog has remained. If I can't be abroad having my own travel adventures the next best thing is to read about others adventures! I found a great directory which is where I discovered the majority of the expat blogs in my google reader.

I ♥ blogger networking communities. If you have an specific interest like expat blogs - when you find one blog you like chances are it is part of a community - and will list other blogs of a similar genre. Score!!! :-)

Another interest I am exploring in the blogosphere is food/cooking - which I have cleverly labeled blogs in this genre as "foodies". Okay - maybe that is not particularly cleaver but for some reason I felt the need to share. More specifically I am interested in learning how to make interesting good tasting food on a budget.

It has recently become my slight obsession to get the most bang for my buck! Meaning - gosh darn it, I want quality but not unless I manage to get a deal or should I say steal?

The next interest I'd like to build up in my google reader are fashion blogs. <--- Preferably with a emphasis toward looking great on a budget. I have yet to build up a list in my reader in this category. Note to self: must really step up the the internet scouring!

If you think you might know of a blog that meets my interests - please feel free to post links. :-)


Monday, January 4, 2010

A very luggage birthday.

On the ride to the train station yesterday I mentioned to my dad that I would like new luggage. Something a little nicer than than the garage sale bargain that struggles and tips behind me rebelliously as I drag it along. My dad says, "Well you have a birthday coming up - why don't you look around."

So, I have begun the initial online search. I have been admiring those "fancy" shiny hardcover suitcases for sometime. Just before Christmas I tested one out in some random store in downtown Chicago. I don't recall the brand. It was hardshell and had 4 spinner wheels, making the suitcase maneuver like a dream, and thus ladies and gentlemen the dream was born. The dream that one day I will own one of those easy gliding suitcases.

Naturally, the online search began looking for hard-case spinner wheel luggage sets. Now, the one in the store I tested out was somewhere around $500 - $600, so the next natural step to my dream was finding luggage of similar quality for much less cost!!!

It's looking promising that I will be able to find a quality luggage set for a much more reasonable price. I am optimistic.

WARNING: I came across something interesting while perusing the net for that one great find, a very different price range for the same exact luggage set. All ye shoppers beware, there is plunderin' a foot!!! Look at the range of prices for the exact same 3 piece luggage set by Heys Exotic XCase Spinner.

This luggage set retails for the following prices at the following online locations;

Heys USA : $489.85

Kohl's : $979.99***

Sam's Club : $249.88

Overstock : $341.99

The lesson is clear, shop around before you buy! I couldn't believe that Kohl's was so expensive - don't they normally have really great bargains?

As for me, the search continues, somehow I don't think dad had in mind a $250 birthday gift, LOL, besides the crocodile print isn't really me...

*** Upon further examination, I noticed the Kohl's price reflects a "buy one get one free" promotion. So apparently, they decided to first DOUBLE the price and then out of the kindness of their hearts offer a ONLINE EXCUSIVE "buy one get one free." Pure class Kohl's - pure class.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Resolutions for a new decade.

Technically, I have lived through two full decades. However, 2000-2010, is the first full decade I really remember. I was 16 when the world welcomed in 2000, as we all anxiously awaited to see if that whole Y2K thing would be the end of us all. Oh how anti-climactic that silly little Y2K was - the clock strikes midnight January 01, 2000 and nada, nothing, zilcho.

I just can't believe that 10 years have passed so fast!!! A lot happened in the past 10 years. I graduated high school, college, and began graduate school. I traveled the world, and managed to transform myself from a little girl who was too shy to go into the local video store by herself into a women that fearlessly travels the world solo. [Okay-maybe not perfectly fearlessly-but I still did it]

I can't help but wonder what the next 10 years will bring? I've always been a rather general long-term goal setter. Long term goal #1: be happy! In high school, we were meant to do an assignment of what we thought/wanted our lives to look like in 10 years. My only goal was to be happy, because as long as I was happy the rest didn't matter. I continue to live my life in that fashion, one step at a time. Yes, I come up with individual short term goals for myself; earn this degree, earn that degree, travel here, travel there, etc. etc etc.

The point is that I am comfortable taking in the pieces to the path of my life as they come to me one step at a time. I don't need to see the end of the road to imagine myself successful in life just as long as I am happy along the way.

New Year's Resolution for this Year: as I only have one course of study left until I acquire my MA degree, with my lighter academic load I am hoping to use all that lovely free time to work and earn some cold hard cash. Which brings me to my real new years resolution: a financial budget that shall allow me to partake in my next latest greatest adventure in this life. :-)

New Year's Resolution for the Decade: the pursuit of all that is good in this world. That may be to vague for some to understand - I just mean to pursue living my life in a positive fashion that will bring good things and happiness to me.

A New Year's Wish: that light, love, and happiness will fill the world and take away all the pain.

Goodbye for now - with cheers - and love for all.


Friday, January 1, 2010

A new year - a new blog.

In honour of the new year I have started yet another blog. One key difference between this blog and past blogs is thanks to my epic Christmas gift [Flip Video Camcorder] my new blog will be graced with vlogs. Yes, that is right, I will be a video blogger.