christmas 2013

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east coast, part 2

IMG_7816After a a few days in NYC, my parents and I drove out to New Canaan, CT to spend time with my Grandmom and see my aunt and uncle. I’ve always loved my Grandmom’s house. I remember swinging in the yellow plastic swing that used to be in the backyard, and feeling a little crushed when I returned and it had been taken down. I traveled and flew by myself on a plane for the first time going to visit my Grandmom. It was around Easter, and she left candy under my pillow every night before I went to bed–like the chocolate coconut nests with candy eggs in the middle? And we took the train to NYC and went on a tour of Radio City Hall, and I was soooo excited to meet a real Rockette! I got my first and only lava lamp for Christmas in that house, and broke a ceramic duck by accident and sobbed in that house, and got ready with my Aunt Amy in that house before her wedding. Basically, it’s a really special place. And so is the lady who lives there 🙂IMG_7826IMG_7829IMG_7843IMG_7842IMG_7846 I love all the ’60s style–like that green carpet! After a few days of relaxing and shopping at the New Canaan J.Crew (major sale and way better selection than most), I went back to the city for a night out with friends. Dinner at The Meatball Shop was followed by dive drinks with some of the most special people EVER, and the night ended with a giant slice of Artichoke pizza in the East Village. It was perfect. Literally my heart swells for all my friends who came out that night. Reunited and it FELT SO GOOD. Really just the most delightful and loving people. Also, fake eyelashes happened (thank you, Danny). The next morning, Dan’s parents, my parents, and Willyman all met us at Walter Foods for a big family brunch to celebrate our engagement! instagram-blockI was exhausted when I got back to LA, but so so happy. AND I was upgraded to business class on the flight home. So, yeah, that didn’t suck. See you soon, New York!

east coast, part 1

IMG_7754I hadn’t been to NYC in a year and it felt so good! That may not seem like a long time, but I used to visit pretty much every other month when Dan and I were long distance, so I got used to seeing all my east coast friends more regularly. The trip was planned to see my brother’s grad school showcase. He’s a composer in NYU Tisch’s Musical Theatre Writing grad program, and he’s spent the last year working on a musical with his writing partner. I had heard bits and pieces of the process from my brother and via my mom, and I’m so thrilled I was there with my parents to see his gorgeous work. Communicating how people feel and love with humor through music is so mature and wise. AND he’s only 25!! The audience was clearly moved by his show, and I couldn’t have been more proud to be his sister. I’m always in awe.IMG_7770IMG_7760I dragged my family all over downtown for dinner and cocktails. Freemans is a favorite spot that Dan and I fell in love with on an impromptu date years ago in NYC. I love how each room is different, and it always feels comforting and hip. Mission Chinese totally lived up to all the awesome things I had heard! The front looks like a classic, hole in the wall, Chinese joint, but in the back is a full restaurant. Flavor explosion! My friend Aubrey (we worked together at Son of a Gun in LA) is the manager there. It was such a delight to see him, and we tried so many yummy dishes including the thrice cooked bacon with rice cakes, and super spicy chonqing chicken wings. I was so full, but I couldn’t stop eating. Then we all walked down to Painkiller, a tiki bar on the LES. My mom was ready to kill me when we showed up to an unmarked door with only a bouncer. Sorry, Mom!IMG_7788IMG_7790IMG_7792IMG_7795IMG_7798How gorgeous are all those blooming trees? I had the most delightful coffee catch up with my dear friend, Jeremy, in the West Village before heading back up to see a matinee of Matilda. I adored the show! The kids in the show were incredible, so committed and strong. Super funny. mailbox-jeremyIMG_7805IMG_7809Amazing, so far, right? And that’s only half way through! Part 2 coming up.

engagement

IMG_0186While I was in Chicago over the holidays, I was lucky to celebrate my friend Amy’s engagement! Her fiance, Matt, organized a surprise birthday/engagement celebration. Amy texted our group of girlfriend’s to tell us she was engaged (!!) — little did she know we were all on our way to her apartment building to surprise her. The look on her face and getting to witness their parents seeing the couple for the first time post-engagement was a moment I’ll never forget. There were tears and hugs and toasts (uh, yeah I cried, obviously)! Big cheers to Matt for planning the surprise. High five to my girlfriends for not spilling the beans! And congratulations to Amy and Matt and their families!!
IMG_0187IMG_0199candlesAnd congratulations to my dear friends Kristi and Henry who also got engaged this holiday season! He proposed in Central Park at the reservoir. I love that! I’ve got some fun weddings coming up this year!

university club

IMG_4434Attending a Christmas dinner at The University Club of Chicago has become a favored family tradition. The building is a classic; collegiate and festive. The main dining hall always has an impressively huge, decked out tree–almost as impressive as the number of oysters I consume in one evening. Seriously, the guy serving said “back again?” on what was only my second out of three trips to the raw bar. What am I? An amateur?!oystersIMG_0123double-photoHope you’re all having a lovely day, celebrating Christmas or enjoying a “day off”. I’m still in my pajamas and plan on wearing them to the dinner table if I can get away with it. (And yes, The University Club is totally Hogwarts! Or so I’m told.)

thanksgiving

IMG_9437IMG_9449My parents and brother came to LA this year for Thanksgiving. My mom did an amazing job of trying to recreate our traditional Thanksgiving at home in Lake Bluff at our apartment in Los Angeles. And I think we were pretty successful! Some things were perfectly the same; my dad’s homemade pies, my mom’s cooking, the “kids” watching the parade on TV. And some things were new; Dan’s awesome Thanksgiving cocktail menu, Dan and I doing the dishes, Willy falling asleep before pie (that jet lag will get ya). I did all the shopping before they arrived, including some cookware we didn’t have, and my parents brought a few key things like pie weights and a turkey thermometer. The day was so fun and cozy. IMG_9463IMG_9479IMG_9443IMG_9480dancocktailIMG_9471IMG_9487IMG_9497How cute are those turkey tea lights?? I loved having everyone in our apartment and eating on our new dining room table. On Friday we went to LACMA and saw the Stanley Kubrick exhibit among others, and they came to see my play. That weekend flew by! Thank goodness Christmas is right around the corner, and I’ll get to see everyone again. I’m also happy Dan and I spent Thanksgiving together, since we’re each going home for Christmas.IMG_9503IMG_9506IMG_9520IMG_9522family

What’s your favorite Thanksgiving food? Mine is a perfect bite of stuffing, mashed potatoes, and gravy. We still have an extra bag of stuffing in the cabinet…I’m afraid to make it because I know I’ll eat it all in one day!

Ruxbin Kitchen

While home in Chicago over the weekend for a bridal shower, my parents and I had dinner at Ruxbin Kitchen, one of my favorite spots to dine. You must go! I’m smitten! My first trip there was back in November with my boyfriend Dan, and we absolutely fell in love with the food, decor, and spirit (did I just say spirit? yup!) of the place. I mean, real yum. In November (when it was freeeezing), we savored an unbelievable calamari dish with Korean flavors, garlic fries, and an epic linguine and clams. This time around, highlights were the escolar crudo, octopus with fried chickpeas, beef and broccoli, and the lightest pot de creme EVER.  Nate, the kitchen manager, door greeter, expediter, and in-house dry soda maker has welcomed me both times–and remembered that I was from LA. We also got to chat with Vicki, who opened Ruxbin with her brother and chef, Edward Kim. It’s so obvious they’re all passionate about what they do, which is part of what makes it such a special place to visit.

Bon Appetit named Ruxbin one of the best new restaurants of the year in 2011 (along with my one of my favorite LA spots, Son of a Gun). It’s just one of those places that manages to feel special and new every time you go. AND it’s BYOB–both times I’ve taken this bottle of Pinot Noir. One time I saw a table shaking their own martinis! They don’t take reservations (both times I went at opening on a Sunday and was seated right away–but there was a gathering outside before the doors opened). See the current menu here.

Can’t wait to go back next time I’m in Chicago!

(photos by Emily Johnston Anderson via Ruxbin Kitchen)