That Time I Volunteered At Ronald McDonald House

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Last night, instead of spending our Saturday night like most other college kids, a group of my sorority sisters and I went down to Grand Ave. in Chicago and cooked a meal for the children and families staying at the Ronald McDonald house. I didn't know much about the place before, other than the standard idea that it helped severely ill children, which had been imprinted in my mind after reading the donation box at McDonald's a billion times as a child. But I didn't realize exactly how it worked until yesterday.

We brought our own food to cook (pasta and meatballs) but they ended up having a whole pantry full of food, so we improvised when we saw we had time leftover and made cookies as well. This was my comfort zone; I haven't really cooked in such a long time and was grateful for the opportunity to help out. Then we served everything buffet style on a counter with heating pads (this kitchen was surprisingly high-tech) and watched as the families came through. I loved seeing the smiles on the children's faces, knowing that they were facing something I would most likely never have to deal with. We were lucky enough to get a tour after the dinner and kitchen was all clean, and just listening to this worker's admiration for the place was inspirational. I left the place feeling so good about what we'd just done, and I'm hoping we'll get at least another few chances to volunteer there!

Since when we left, it was late and we were already downtown, Isabel and I decided to roam around the city that, by our luck, had just been lit with christmas lights!

Chicago is honestly one of the prettiest places on earth this time of year..

And then, after meeting up with some of our "fam," we went in search of a place to eat and found a long-awaited spot at The Cheesecake Factory! I had the best original cheesecake of my life and all the while, we sat outside under heat lamps, looking at this gorgeous tree.

Only two more days in this gorgeous place and then I'm back home. How very bittersweet.


That Time I Volunteered At An Art Gallery

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Hello all, it's Sunday. Or Universal Homework Day as I like to call it. Although I started my homework earlier this weekend, we all know how that goes. You stop halfway through because you tell yourself having the whole weekend ahead of you to do it. And then Sunday night comes...

I've spent a lot of time being philanthropic lately, mostly due to my sorority. But my favorite experience yet was at an art and decoration store downtown, Primitive Gallery, that was hosting an event called "Place the Hope" for Children's Place International.
I, along with Isabel, ended up selling art that Haitian children had created with acrylics and tiny canvases. Knowing that this was the first time many of the children had held a paintbrush was astonishing. The art pieces went quickly, to donors and high society people who readily handed over their credit cards and selected their art.

Besides being wow-ed by the cause, I was definitely astounded by these people's generosity, or at least how easy it was for them to justify buying one or more of these artworks. Watching them walk past in their classy outfits with designer handbags and a drink in hand, it made me realize how much I'd like to be among them someday. I mean, I guess I've gone to galas and events with my parents where they've donated to charities without thinking twice, but being on the side that was collecting and facilitating, not merely watching my father pull out his checkbook, was eye-opening. Someday I'll be at that gala, pondering art pieces and buying them from wide-eyed college volunteers.

For now, I hope to do more work with Children's Place and make an impact despite my thinning college budget. 


Foodie Review (double): John's Place and Chez Moi

Saturday, October 6, 2012

This past week, my roommate celebrated nineteen years. Although we are twins in many ways, when it comes to birthdays, we couldn't be more of opposites. I'm a sucker for a quiet, relaxing day and a good dinner with just a couple friends. Libby, on the other hand, likes to plan out her whole birthday week full of activities. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating, but she definitely likes to have plans for her day. Here's the breakdown of our October 4th:

Noon: Lunch at John's Place on Webster and Racine. We had hummus, which was fairly standard, to start. Then I got a tofu sandwich that had been grilled to perfection, and she got the fish tacos. The restaurant was quaint and airy, and the service was fairly quick - although that could have been due to the lack of people in the place. We left perfectly full and with leftovers.
Em's Rating: 6.5 
The downside? For the price, the food was not stellar, but I will definitely stop in again for an occasional brunch or dinner with my friends. 

4PM: After an afternoon of homework, all the girls rounded up for a workout session, called Werq, at the Ray. It was fantastic exercise and really fun, especially because we were together! We were laughing about our horrid dance skills (and about how I can't do any dance move without holding my back upright) the whole time. Highly recommended.
6PM: When everyone was done showering, we met up with the guys (even Libby's boyfriend made a trip down from Wisconsin!) and headed over to Chez Moi, a french restaurant. My goodness were we blown away when we arrived! First off, we were graciously greeted and sat at a table in this cozy, dark-wooded atmosphere lit by glimmering chandeliers. Libby received her own menu that was inscribed with a "Happy Birthday!" and the signature of Chef Dominique on the back! The servers (one of them was actually French, hailing from Bretagne) then brought out complimentary appetizers: a white bean hummus dip, garlic purée with french fries, radishes and butter, and of course, bread. All of our food was delicious, and, as we were eight, there was a lot of variety on our table. Between trout, steak, and scallops, we decided we couldn't have picked a better restaurant for the evening.
 Em's Rating: 10

Now for the best part, during dinner, Libby opened up all of our presents. Yours truly was last of course, and I was shaking from nerves - although I don't really know why - up until the moment she opened the bag I'd so precariously put together. As soon as she saw the pattern of her lovely Diane Von Furstenberg dress, she gasped "no way!" and the freak out began. I'm so very glad she liked it, and that she hadn't suspected me of getting it for her. Her reaction was probably one of the best I've ever witnessed in all my gift-giving days...and that's saying something. I guess I have my mother to thank, though. She is one of the best people I know at remembering the little things, which always makes for the best gifts. If the apple never falls far from the tree, mother is the very lowest branch and I'm the pink lady!


P.s. Be sure to check out my Yelp profile!

Foodie Review: Portillo's

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

I wouldn't be a Chicago foodie if I hadn't already tasted the wonder that is Portillo's. This place, introduced to me by one of my Belden girls who is practically a native to the city, is dangerous for my daily calorie count, but also sinfully delicious.

I walked into the location off of Ontario St. in downtown and immediately felt like I was in an old-school diner. While the space is more airy, the retro decor and music threw me back in time. I found the order-at-the-counter style to be charming, although where to order what was a bit confusing at first. I waited a few minutes and my Portillo's chopped salad appeared on a plate adorned with crinkle-cut french fries. Then I headed over to the opposite corner of the room to pick up the famous Chocolate Cake Shake. The salad was amazing, with an original dressing spicing up traditional ingredients. The fries were standard, but somehow they seemed to taste a little better under the dim lighting and surrounding gingham-cloth-covered tables. Finally, it came time to consume my weight in the famous Portillo's dessert. It was everything I could have imagined a chocolate cake in liquid form to be. It's as if they stuffed a scrumptious piece of spongy, chocolate cake into a blender with milk and hit go.

I would say I'm coming back here, but for my own health (and avoidance of the Freshman 15) I will try my best to reserve this place for emergencies only.

Em's rating: 9
The downside? The confusing ordering system was more tough than I thought and I felt like I was jumping through hoops just to get my food at one point.

Foodie Review: Joy Yee Noodles (Shabu Shabu)

Monday, October 1, 2012

On a sunny Saturday afternoon, my roommate and I decided to take a chance and ride the L down to Chinatown for lunch. The commute was nice, seeing as the stop was just on the red line (what a convenient line!) and you could see China Place from the station.

We wandered around the giant asian-inspired area for a bit before settling in Joy Yee Noodles (Shabu Shabu) for some sushi. Immediately upon entering, we noticed there was a river-like fish tank...under the floor! After ahh-ing over this for a moment, we were quickly seated in a booth in the middle of all the action. We were too scared to get the shabu, as neither of us knew how to eat it, and instead got a couple different sushi rolls (sweet potato, Joy Yee roll, california) to be eaten family-style. We were absolutely blown away by the quality of the sushi! It was the best I've had since my favorite authentic Japanese restaurant in Grand Rapids. The staff was very friendly and prompt, but I think that must be a part of Asian culture.

With stuffed stomachs and a little-less-stuffed wallets, we left the restaurant raving and ready to come back!

Em's rating: 7.5
The downside? If you don't know what you're ordering, there isn't much help for you.

That Time I Went Through Recruitment

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

After my Friday night filled with girl talk, Cosmo, Nan's sushi, Ben & Jerry's, and Sex & the City, I woke up on Saturday morning ready to attack the first day of panhellenic recruitment at DePaul. I'll be honest, at first I wasn't too keen on the idea of spending four hours standing around and chatting with a bunch of girls I don't know. Don't get me wrong, I love spending time with my girl friends, but too much estrogen is just that...too much. But I went into the student center with a smile on anyway. And I was actually surprised at how fun the whole day turned out to be! After the first couple conversations, I'd started getting the hang of this small talk thing. And if I can do it, anybody can.

Tips on Being a Potential New Member (PNM) #1:
  • Ask any and all questions you have
  • Research the sororities a bit and throw in a question about a philanthropy event you know they hold or a tradition you'd seen they have
  • Remember their names!!
  • After meeting each chapter, give yourself enough time to collect your thoughts and how you felt about the girls
  • After each round, rank the chapters. You'll be able to review how you felt last time and how that's changed
The more I think about it, the more excited I get about joining a sorority. The girls of all ages and backgrounds, the network, the philanthropy, the connections, and just having a place I belong. I mean, I've always found a place where I've belonged. But I just can't wait to find a new one!

This was only the beginning though, I still have plenty more rounds this week. So we'll see how everything goes I guess.

In the meantime, what have I been obsessing over recently? This little beauty

If you have any advice for me or stories about recruitment, I'd love to hear!


That Time I Went To The Hospital

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Sorry I've been so long in writing again, but my poor little heart was having issues for about a week. And after a scary attack where I almost passed out on a train on a Saturday night, I decided it was time to see what's up. I was anemic. Which means that I didn't have enough blood in my body to go around. I'd lost the blood somewhere - somewhere that the doctors have yet to figure out. So I had a blood transfusion, missed the first three real days of class in college, and spent two sleepless nights in a hospital. But lucky for me, my mother was able to make it down and that made everything a little easier to bear.

Now I'm one of those people that loves getting my blood drawn, but the amount of needles they stuck in me is enough to make even the most experienced needle-taker cringe. My arms are all black and blue still. And not being able to eat real food while in the hospital set on some of the worst migraines ever. Needless to say, I was miserable. And the point of the story? Pay attention to your body. When something isn't right, and you'll know something's up, get it checked out right away. It saves your friends a nervous breakdown when you turn ghostly white and can't breathe.

But now I'm back and on the rebound! I jumped right into classes, of which my Bio course is my favorite. I'm laughing, studying, eating (REAL FOOD), and walking normally again. Hooray!

And in addition to my mother being there for me, my roommate, and possibly the most amazing person ever, stayed with me through it all. She even spent the first night in an uncomfortable hospital chair so I wouldn't have to go through three blood transfusions alone. Yeah, I bet you can't tell me someone did that for you. And I've received the most flowers since I was back in my dance concert days. The best being, of course, from my darling Sarah who heard about my incident and immediately ordered flowers, a bear, a balloon, and a card to be sent to my room. I love her.


Now that I've finally survived (literally) the first week of classes, it's time for a fitness & sushi night with my Belden girls!


Foodie Review: Cheesie's

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Today I had the priviledge of eating a Mac n Cheese sandwich from Cheesie's! I went with a small group and we got our food within ten minutes - this is definitely a speedy place. The cool thing about it is that you order at the counter, and when they bring it out to you, they call your name. Not your table's name or number, but you're first name. It made the place feel more like I was at home and my mother was calling me upstairs for dinner.

The sandwich itself was delicious. Who knew mac n cheese would go so well in between two slices of bread? The marina dipping sauce that went with it was spot on as well. And judging from the couple of sweet potato fries I stole from one of my friends, you just can't go wrong here.

Em's rating: 3.5 stars

The downside? The restaurant was slightly grubby and cramped, which made it hard to eat your food in peace. The sandwiches also seemed a little over-priced, so thank goodness I had a coupon with me!

That Time I Started College Classes

Friday, September 7, 2012

First day of classes went okay. My chem was not too hot, but bio sounds like a blast. The french class seems way too easy, so we'll see how that goes. I got a headache from all the syllabus reading and shaking of hands. Oh well. I guess I just have to muster through being a freshman again. I hate being new.

Today would have sucked if I hadn't had my girls with me. Libby, Isabel, Kelly, and Danielle. They're the only girls I feel I can count on here. Sitting around eating Nesh pita with falafel and talking about whatever pops into our heads was probably the best way end to my shitty day. That, and a phone call from my best friend from home.

I guess there are just so many things wrong at this moment. And I suppose I could list them all off. But I'd rather shut my eyes, dream, and wake up tomorrow to go running and start a better day.

I'll leave you all with this truth:


Although, we could probably all use a good Bergdorf's run...


That Time I Moved Away To College

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

DePaul is nothing and everything I expected it to be. It's fantastic, fast-paced, friendly (holy cow, I just totally used alliteration there!) But mostly, it's just so much fun. Yes, another F-lettered word. Get used to it.

First of all, my roommate is amazing. She is so much like me, but enough not like me at all. We get along great. At least much, much better than some of the roommates I'm hearing about...

Second, our room is the most adorable abode ever. Thank you, Audrey!

Third, the food here doesn't suck. I had the best apple & cranberry salad today. Life complete.
Fourth, the people are awesome. We made cookies last night for all the lovely kids in Belden, and while we were yelling out "cookies!" running up and down the halls, we met some pretty cool people. I'm excited. And then we went out exploring Lincoln Park a bit. It was so good to just walk around in the night with people I don't really know and freak out over boutiques and restaurants I'm sure we'll venture to later on.

Fifth, the view from my dorm. Self-explanatory.

So that's that. I'm a college girl now. And I couldn't be happier. Being in the city makes me feel so independent and free. I mean, I bought my own GROCERIES yesterday!

But at the same time, I'm wishing I'd have someone to tell me what to do. This being away from home stuff is weirder than I'd thought. Oh well. I'll get used to it.


That Time I Saw My Extended Family After A Year

Sunday, August 26, 2012

I've been home for a little over a month now. And my mistaking-french-words-for-english-words phase is almost up. Just in time to head off to college! But I thought I'd make a quick visit to see my family before I started my new life in Chicago.

So I spent the second half of my birthday driving up to my grandparents' house where I answered endless questions about France, coming home, and how I was doing. Then I hugged them goodbye and trekked to my Aunt's* house to see her and my two lovely cousins*. And then we finally came back to the homestead for a night with the amazing Liz (my other cousin*) that had been much-needed.
*Disclaimer time: these relatives are not blood-related nor marriage-related. But they're the closest thing I have to family. My godmother, her daughters, my brother's godmother, godfather, and their daughter. But that's another story.

In my days spent with these awesome ladies, we lounged, watched TV, talked, laughed, and cooked. Yes, yours truly is still on her cooking-kick. And I'm soaking up new recipes like a dried-out sponge recently dropped in water.

Here I'll share my Aunt's famous Spinach-Feta Frittata recipe:
2 lbs spinach
10 eggs
1/2 C milk
3/4 C feta
Pinch of pepper & Tabasco
Preheat oven to 400F. Oil frying pan. Cook down spinach. Drain. Re-oil pan. Mix eggs, milk, pepper & Tabasco in a bowl. Add mixture to spinach. Cook until set*
Put in oven for 20 minutes and enjoy!
*set: when you move the pan, the mixture moves but is firm
(this is only a quarter of the gorgeous pie, it was too delicious to wait!)
I'd say my housewife skills are coming along quite splendidly. I'm even preparing dough right now to make cookies for my new dorm! Let's just say I'm embracing my love for cooking while it lasts.

I'm off to start the adventure of packing my clothes for school, it's all I have left before I'm 100% ready to pack up and leave town. Here goes nothing!


That Time I Turned Nineteen

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Yes, I am officially nineteen years of age today. Happy Birthday to me!

I said goodbye to my darling German, Luisa, yesterday afternoon..probably the worst birthday present in history. But I know we have to leave each other sometimes so the reunion is that much sweeter.

Nineteen-Year Old Resolutions:
(I know it's not New Year's, but I never end up following those anyway. So why not make Birthday Promises? I feel like that makes it a little more personal, and more like I really need to follow them. Please excuse me talking to myself for a moment.)
  • Pick up dance again, as a hobby. Don't over-do it, but keep up with it because it's what you love. And you heard your mother yesterday, you've been dancing since you came into this world. Quitting was a stupid idea.
  • Be more patient with the world. Remember that "look at every side of the situation" attitude you used to have? Yeah, get that back.
  • Remember how darn lucky you are. Seriously, you don't have room to complain.
  • Read the whole book. I know you're starting college and you think you won't have time. But do it.
  • Make sure to get running in at least twice a week. It makes you feel better.
  • Eat gluten-free as much as possible.
  • Enjoy this year and don't lose the people who hold you close. Good luck, we'll talk again when you're twenty.
There. It's done. I've written these down and put them in a box as well. I guess we'll see how that turns out in 365 days!

My Birthday presents: my lovely new macbook pro, dorm accessories, tea & a tea cup from my ladies, a Lilly tumbler, a gorgeous creme Guess bag, and my new glasses from Warby Parker (Reece in Whiskey Tortoise)
Oh! and this day marking a new term of my life, I created a Twitter account and found my new life motto:

Holy cannoli! A lot has happened today already. Time to start packing for family week, I'm off to my grandparents and cousins' houses.


That Time I Found Out I'm An Autumn

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Yesterday was an episode of perfection. I started my day with a Watermelon Agua Fresca (watermelon purée and seltzer water) and delicious zucchini fries. Then I spent the afternoon with the best friends on this planet as we got told which colors look best on us and ultimately counseled in how to pick our wardrobes.

After, we dressed up & went out to eat at my favorite restaurant in downtown Toledo, Rockwell's!
I can't gloat enough about this night filled with good conversation, laughs, and more food than anyone could possibly consume. My ladies are just that, my ladies. One spring, one summer at heart, one winter, and one autumn. We complete each other. And now I'm going to write a bit about them because they wholeheartedly deserve it.

My Spring: She is the girl that walks into a room and lights it up with her animated character, infectious laugh, and glowing smile. The girl that I knew I'd be best friends with the first time I laid eyes on her. And our friendship is like wine, it just keeps getting better with age. She has a way of making me laugh almost all the time. She takes everything lightly and can never be mad for long. Her head is in the clouds, but there isn't a more loyal girl walking this earth! I can't imagine my life without her. She is my favorite, my Sarah.

My Summer: Okay, I have to admit she is a "spring" but to me, she'll always be summer. Perhaps because she's spent two summers with me & I know there's only more to come. She is my sister-daughter, the one that teaches me to be patient, and knows me so well it scares me. She is nonchalant about life and keeps calm always. Her beauty is unconventional and astounding, and I'm convinced she'll be the face of some designer someday. She loves me despite everything & will always hold a big chunk of this here heart of mine. She is my German, my Luisa.

My Winter: This girl keeps me guessing all the time. She's honest and doesn't like to waste time beating around the bush. Her demeanor can seem icy cold, but her heart is as warm as a cup of hot chocolate on a snowy day. She's intelligent, confident, and beautiful in her own skin. She owns up to herself and does as much as she can pile on her plate without it tipping over. And sometimes, when it does, she knows we're there for her. She's my twin, my Muri.

These are my girls. Forever & always.


That Time I Started A Blog

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Hello there!
My name is Emily. I'm eighteen years old and about to start my college career.

I don't want to miss a beat (and I'm sure you won't want to either), so here I am, documenting my journey to adulthood.

A Few Things About Me:

  • I'm a bit of a feminist. But I also love to cook, clean, craft and online shop. Basically, I'm the best of both worlds.
  • My favorite colors are navy, white and mustard. And I still believe that knowing someone's favorite color is important.
  • I speak fluent French and lived in Bordeaux, France for a year.
  • I'm a part-time vegetarian, but chicken is probably my favorite food group.
  • I should have been born anywhere except the Midwest, but I'll always love my charming hometown.
  • My major as of now is Pre-Med/French (please don't ask what I'm doing with it).
  • I move to Chicago in 10 days to start my life as a college student.
  • I have an obsession with Tommy Hilfiger, green tea, Gossip Girl and fat animals.
So I'm taking a page from Life's Little Instruction book and turning myself into a classy, well-traveled, well-dressed, perfectly polished machine.
Who is on the list of my inspiration? Jackie O, Kate Middleton, Lilly Pulitzer, Audrey Hepburn, Blair Waldorf, and my own dearest mother, with whom I share almost everything in common.

Well, here's to the start of an incredible journey to adulthood.
Wish me luck. I'm gonna need it.