Monday, January 26, 2015

South America Trip: Buenos Aires

About a year ago, some friends of ours pitched the idea of going to South America to tour Argentina's wine country. In November, we actually did it. We visited three cities (Buenos Aires, Mendoza and Santiago) in two countries (Argentina and Chile) over the course of 10 days. It was awesome.


We started off in Buenos Aires, Argentina. After about 12 total hours of flying, we landed in BA, where we immediately discovered the insanity that is driving. Lane lines are just suggestions. If there are only 4 lanes, at least 6 cars will squish into that space.  There are very few stop signs at intersections. People just kind of slow down and make sure no one else is coming.

On the first day, we checked into our hotel and explored our neighborhood, Palermo SoHo. It's full of cute shops and restaurants. It's rather appropriately named because it reminds me a lot of SoHo in NYC.

In the evening, we took a tango lesson. Buenos Aires is the home of tango, and Argentines are very proud of the dance form. Through the language barrier, it was fun to get to know a few locals and to participate in an authentically Argentine activity.

After working up an appetite dancing, we had our first steak of the trip at Don Julio. I wasn't wowed, but it was good. The vegetables were awesome! And we had a great time sitting outside in the gorgeous, decidedly un-Chicago-like weather.

We woke up the second morning to cloudy skies and rain. This was to be our big sight-seeing day in the city, so we grabbed umbrellas and set off. We toured the Teatro Colón, the country's main opera house. We walked up and down Av. 9 de Julio, the world's widest avenue, and through the Puerto Madero neighborhood.

For lunch, we sampled BA-style fugazzeta pizza at El Cuartito for lunch, along with empanadas. Empanadas were a big part of our trip, and I have no regrets about this.

That night, we ate dinner at Paladar, a closed-door restaurant in the chef's home. We learned about it in the New York Times. This was one of the best meals we ate on our trip, and it was certainly the most interesting dining experience we had. The husband-and-wife team who run the restaurant were so accommodating and helpful. The food was fantastic, and the atmosphere was certainly unique. Dinners like this one are what travel is all about.

The next morning, I took a gorgeous run through Palermo...

These gorgeous trees were in bloom all over the city.
...ate a delicious medialuna with dulce de leche...

This was my breakfast every day. Someday we will meet again, friends.

...before heading out to the outskirts of town for a day of polo. We learned the rules of the game while snacking on homemade empanadas. Then, we got to go watch a match. In between chukkas, we practiced our own skills with the mallet and made friends with the horses.

Oh, hello. We do this every day. This is our life.

After the match, we were treated to an amazing barbecue lunch and then played with the ranch dog's new puppies! They were only 2-weeks old!

Back in the city, we ventured to La Boca, the colorful neighborhood at the mouth of the river that's home to tango dancers, the Boca Juniors football stadium, and lots of stray dogs. (The stray dog thing is a theme all over South America, as we found out on this trip.) La Boca is on every must-see list, and frankly, we found it slightly terrifying and not very scenic at all. We high-tailed out of it there as soon as two stray dogs started fighting in the street. No bueno!

We celebrated our travel companion M's birthday with drinks at the Alvear Palace Hotel and dinner at Cabana Las Lilas. The service was very strange, but the steak was the best I ate on our trip. We sat out on the terrace with a view overlooking the river and scene in Puerto Madero. It was a wonderful way to say goodbye to Buenos Aires.

Buenos Aires was such an interesting and beautiful city. I appreciated that it has a rich history and culture of which its residents are very proud. I wish we had a bit more time there. I felt like we just scratched the surface of what the city has to offer. I guess we'll just have to come back some day!

View of the Rio de La Plata from the airport. Not too shabby.

Next stop: Mendoza!

Monday, January 12, 2015

2015 Golden Globes Recap

I haven't seen the vast majority of the movies and shows nominated, so I'm really just here for the fashion and jokes. Here's a round-up of my favorites this year:

Best Dressed
Kate Hudson is recently single and wants everyone to know she's back on the market. I imagine that was the motivation behind this smokin' hot look.

And speaking of behind, hers looks fantastic in this dress.

This dress was tailored to perfection. I loved her simple hair and fabulous earrings, too. She looked like a movie star.

Worst Dressed
This one is so easy because Keira Knightley looked ghastly. I know she's a very private person who also happens to be a pregnant celebrity, so I'm sure she didn't want to make it obvious, but come on. Just about anything would be better than that butterfly monstrosity.

Best Dressed Man
We can't let the ladies have all the fun. I LOVED Kevin Hart's white-piped tuxedo. Such a perfect detail. It was modern without being crazy.

Most Talked-About Person on the Red Carpet
Amal Clooney. Obviously.

Judging by the gloves, I see that she and I watched the same Downton Abbey special about the manners of Edwardian Britain last weekend. I actually liked the gloves (which she reportedly made herself), but I kind of wish they'd been black. I loved the dress and loved her human man accessory even more.

Best Joke
This was Tina and Amy's last year hosting the Globes, and the show could have used a lot more of them.

They didn't hold back in their opening, going after Bill Cosby. One of my favorite jokes was about George Clooney and his begloved wife. "Amal is a human rights lawyer who worked on the Enron case, was an advisor to Kofi Annan regarding Syria, and was selected for a three-person UN commission investigating rules of war violations in the Gaza Strip, so tonight, her husband is getting a lifetime achievement award."

But the one that really made me laugh was about the movie Selma: "The movie Selma is about the American Civil Rights Movement that totally worked and now everything's fine."

What were your favorite moments last night?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Going Down

Recently, my puffy winter coat went kaput. I faced the task of purchasing a replacement during a very cold snap of Chicago weather where high temperatures hovered near zero. This prompted me to do a lot of research on the warmest winter coats. Everything led me to one source of insulation: down. But I had a lot of questions. What's the difference between real down and synthetic insulation? What kind of fill power is best? Is there really any difference between duck down and goose down? Are there any down sides to down? What even is down?

Luckily for you, I looked up the answers to these questions so you don't have to.

First of all, down is type of feather found on birds. It's a very light, very soft layer of feathers found underneath the tough exterior feathers. A down feather looks like this:

When down is compressed, the tiny filaments create air pockets that hold air and therefore, heat. Because of this, down is an excellent natural insulator.

The insulating power of down is measured through its fill power. In order to measure fill power, one ounce of down is placed in a graduated cylinder and a small weight or a fan is used to compress the down. Whatever marking on the cylinder the down is compressed to, that's the fill power.

Most down ranges from abut 300 to 1200 cubic inches per ounce. The higher the number, the lighter and more compressible the down. A fill power of 500-550 is considered good, 550–750 is very good, and 750+ is excellent. Basically, with a higher fill power down, you get more warmth with less weight.

Generally, the best down comes from larger, more mature birds. The larger and older the bird, the larger the feather, and the higher the fill power.

So, down from an old goose would be preferable to down from a young duck, though down from an old duck would be better than down from a young goose. When comparing ducks and geese of the same maturity, goose down would be slightly better.

There's lots of synthetic insulation out there that can be used in place of down. However, ounce-for-ounce, down is warmer than man-made materials. Down also lasts longer than synthetics, if cared for properly.

The one major disadvantage of down is that it becomes useless when wet. This is why birds have tough exterior feathers: to protect the down from moisture. Humans have water-resistant fabrics on our side. When buying a down coat, make sure the outside is covered in some form of synthetic water-resistant or waterproof fabric.

Most down jackets aren't full of 100% down. Even the most expensive down jackets, like Canada Goose, are filled with 80/20 down, or 80% down and 20% feathers that have been cut into small pieces. Feathers help to keep loft and shape in the down.

In the end, I went with this coat: The TNA Bancroft from Aritzia.

It has 80/20 duck down at a 675 fill power. It has a water-resistant shell and a faux fur ruff on the hood for extra protection from the elements. My favorite part is the fleece-lined pockets. So cozy! Bring it on, Chicago winters!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 in Review

What a ride 2014 has been! Life has been filled with lots of blessings this year, and I can only hope that 2015 continues to be just as amazing. Here are some of my top moments from 2014:

Traveled to South America (recaps to come in 2015!)

Got way too into the Olympics

Fun fact: Adam is actually a dual citizen of Canada and the U.S.

Attended my 5-year college reunion

Celebrated my BFF's 30th birthday on Fire Island

Ran my 2nd marathon

Attended lots of weddings for awesome couples

This couple made it snow at the end of their reception! It was awesome!

Went to Skate America and Stars on Ice

Best wishes to everyone for a safe, happy, and prosperous 2015! Cheers!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Lately I'm Loving: Serial

Given my new-found love of podcasts and legal background, it should come as no surprise that I'm hooked on the true-life crime podcast Serial. If you are not listening to it, you need to reevaluate your priorities and download it immediately.

Serial is a documentary-style podcast that tells the story of a murder that happened in 1999. An 18-year-old girl named Hae Min Lee disappeared after school in Baltimore County, and her body was found six weeks later. Her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was arrested, charged, and found guilty of her murder. He is still in prison, but maintains his innocence. The show's host, Sarah Koenig, explores the details of the case and tries to get to the bottom of what really happened. Did Adnan really do it? If not, who did?

This podcast is straight-up lawyer porn. These are the kinds of cases everyone wants to work on when they're in law school. Well, the would-be trial lawyers, anyway. There isn't a ton of evidence linking Adnan to the crime, so making your case is a matter of persuasion. The lawyers have to create a narrative that fits their version of events, and then try to sell that story to the jury as the most correct option. It's really interesting to hear how the lawyers spun the same piece of evidence or testimony in two completely different directions to make their points. As a lawyer, I appreciate that the general public is getting a peek behind the curtain at what the trial process is actually like.

The story sadly ends next Thursday, and I'm really curious how the story finishes. Obviously, not everything will be tied up in a nice, neat bow, but I hope there's some sense of closure. Then, I will wait with bated breath for Season Two.

Monday, December 8, 2014

#27: Donate My Hair to Make Wigs for Cancer Patients

This one has haunted me for years. When I was 19, just after my freshman year of college, I chopped off my hair. It went from halfway down my back to just above my shoulders...and I didn't donate it. Then, just before my wedding, in the summer of 2012, I got sick and tired of my long hair and chopped it. My plan had been to donate it after the wedding, but I got so sick of it. However, I still wanted a bit of length so I could put my hair in an updo for the big day, so I only cut about 6 inches. Not enough to donate.

When I started to grow my hair long last year, I knew I would stick with it until I had enough to donate. It took a lot longer than I expected, but fortunately, I hit the elusive 8-inch mark around the same time I was getting tired of having long hair.

Yesterday, I took the plunge. I chopped about 9 inches in total off my hair to be sent to Pantene Beautiful Lengths to be made into wigs for cancer patients. I feel so much lighter, and I'm happy that something I would've done anyway can be turned into a way to help others.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Book Review: Yes Please

I love me some Amy Poehler. In my head, we are BFFs who haven't had the good fortune of meeting yet. So when I found out in June that she had a book coming out, I pre-ordered it immediately. (I'd just finished NPH's book when I got this in the mail, so clearly November is celebrity autobiography month for me.)

The foreword to this book is all about how much she hated writing it. Sadly, it showed. I found this book to be a bit underwhelming. I really wish I had a better review, but I didn't feel that I learned much about her in this book. I didn't expect her to delve into the details of her divorce or tell us her most embarrassing secrets, but I didn't walk away knowing anything new about her. Specifically, I wish there would've been more about the development of her career. Sure, she talked about UCB, SNL and Parks and Rec, but it all seemed very rushed and glossed-over with just one chapter apiece on each of those topics. It was clear that she didn't really want to write the book and that she didn't really want to reveal too much about her life. That's understandable, but if you do decide to go down the road of writing that undesired book, you have to commit. She never committed, and so it all just seems like fluff.

There were a few good parts, though. I loved the chapters about her childhood. They were heartfelt and funny. She has some really great stories about the shenanigans she used to get into with her friends, like handcuffing themselves together at school one day. I also loved when she talked about the birth of her oldest son. It was the only time I cracked up reading this book because it was just so honest and sweet and silly all at the same time. She writes about watching the moon with her sons and her idea of time travel. These chapters are wonderful, and I wish there were more like them.

Overall, I'm really bummed that I didn't love this book, but I still love Amy. C-