Chicago Summer Birthday Tour!

I made an epic photo collage of my summer vacation! My friends are just so darn photogenic, it had to be done. I will include annotations/explanations at the end of all your scrolling.

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1. Debie and I flew to Chicago for a girls' weekend with Lani so we could properly celebrate Debie's birthday! This involved an appropriate amount of sweets. Now I want the Hoosier Mama pie book so badly, the passionfruit meringue pie was out of this world.

2. Hanging out with DJ Lani Love means lots of comped champagne, I found out. She's just that cool. And also many people recognize her solely based on her asymmetrical haircut.

3. I crashed while riding Chicago's bikeshare. Totally wiped out after skidding out on sand (which I hadn't encountered on D.C.'s bikeshare). So ironic because I was trying to help newbie bike rider Debie and then I was the one who crashed. Ha. I just jumped off though, no injuries. 

4. I haven't been to a proper "club" in a while, and it cracked me up to see all the people crowded outside Underground when we got out. They looked so needy, pressed up against the fence. And the line was at least a hundred people deep! And everyone in line was beautiful. I told Joe, "It was like a zoo for beautiful people." So funny.

 5. We were lucky enough to go to a fab Neiman Marcus "Wake Up Your Makeup" event, which involved getting a swag bag with soo many samples (there we are evaluating the loot). I also won something, which never happens. They called my name, "Adele Chopin," and I continued surfing the Internet until Debie and Lani said, "Adele, that's you!" Also, unfortunately, the lady at the airport called me "Mr" — that's a first with the new haircut — so my new alias is Mr. Chopin. I won a three-step Clinque system. I am digging it so far! The Dramatically Different lotion is really nice. I had to check my bag because of my prize, which is why I had to deal with that lady at the airport at all.

We also got Tom Ford makeup and I got sold. The makeup artist and I talked relationships and she gave me strong brows. "I got the eyebrow pencil," I told Lani and Debie. "...And the eye pencil."  [Long pause] "And a lip gloss."

Don't worry, I wasn't wearing all this makeup when I got mistaken for a dude. Also, in case you are wondering, the event involved models showing off the latest makeup, except for one model who had to wear a scary face mask (as pictured). I bet that was a disappointment for her. It was terrifying. 

Hope you had a fab birthday, Debie! Thanks so much for hosting us, Lani, I had a blast! And thanks for taking these photos, a few of which I swiped for this post.


Roy Lichtenstein Nail Art

When I went to visit my friend Lani in Chicago this past fall, she asked me if I wanted to get a CND Shellac manicure from her favorite nail artist, AstroWifey. I'd seen Lani's amazing AstroWifey-designed nails in photos before, so I jumped at the chance to try it out for myself. We made a day of our manicure sessions (literally, it took four hours for both of us to get our nails did). AstroWifey had an iPad with hundreds of designs to choose from, but I already knew what I wanted before I set foot in the door. In honor of this fall's National Gallery of Art's Roy Lichtenstein retrospective, I wanted to get a Lichtenstein-esque pop art manicure.

That's all I told AstroWifey, and this is what she came up with:


Isn't this mind blowing? She painted all of by hand! Talk about painstaking work, and some serious talent. Look at the thumbs! That face!  My middle fingers said "Whaam" and "Boom," in case you can't tell.

This manicure is downright amazing. I will admit I was nervous when she started by painting every nail a different color. But the result was cooler than I could ever imagine. She used regular craft paint on top of the nail polish for the designs, using a teeny tiny brush. 

So when I got home to Washington, I had to take my Lichtenstein nails to the exhibit for a comparison.


Pretty spot on, huh? Did you get to visit the exhibit? I've always loved Roy Lichtenstein's work for its boldness and humor, but I didn't realize how many genres of art he tackled with his trademark style — everything from sculpture to landscapes in Chinese style.

As you could've guessed I spent about two weeks staring at my nails. And everyone around me noticed too. Maybe because I couldn't shut up about them. This was my first time getting a Shellac manicure. It held up really well, except for some reason after about a week and a half, one entire nail peeled off without me realizing it. Nooo! Perhaps because there were so many layers of paint. I liked Shellac a lot, overall. While I had the manicure, I used CND Solar Cuticle oil everyday and my nails felt so healthy by the end of two weeks.

Anyway, I can't wait to visit AstroWifey again next time I'm in Chicago with two spare hours. Is there anyone in D.C. who can paint nails like this? If so, drop me a line in the comments, I'm dying to know! And PS: Who What Wear Beauty linked to some gorgeous Vogue pop-art inspired manicures here.

Chicago Architecture Tour

This was my third visit to Chicago, and every time I've wanted to go on an architecture tour. And this is the trip when I finally achieved my goal. I went on the boat tour with the Chicago Architecture Foundation, and the guide talked about nearly every building on along the river. It's all a marvel of achievement, and what I was struck by is the fact that these skyscrapers are still being built even today. Like Studio Gang Architects' Aqua, completed in 2010. Interestingly, it's the largest project ever awarded to an American firm headed by a woman and the tallest building in the world from a female lead architect. Although the recession is obvious too, thanks to a giant hole in the ground where Santiago Calatrava's Chicago Spire should be.

Chicago Eating Tour 2012


German chocolate doughnut, where have you been all my life? Glazed & Infused is making dreams come true.


Me, getting absolutely no air.


"Time to make the doughnuts..."


Another fancy doughnut, this time with bacon. Courtesy of hip brunch spot Longman & Eagle.


I liked the cocktail illustrations at Scofflaw.


Shortly after eating the massive chocolate doughnut, we had lunch/dinner at Frank 'n Dawgs, where they serve a very dressed up hot dog. I went for a brat with portabella mushrooms, then we split the roasted cauliflowers and truffle fries. It was a meal for champions.


Big Shoulders


"Stormy, husky, brawling, City of the Big Shoulders..."


That's right, Chicago!

I love having friends where when I visit them, I don't have to plan anything. They have my holiday all sorted. Sure enough, I didn't plan a blessed thing, Lani seemingly knows everyone and is plugged in everywhere. So as soon as I got off the plane, we were off to see Gemini Club do an in-store performance at Dr. Martens.


They were really fun, dancing on the counter near the cash register. The lead singer claimed someone threw up but I don't think anyone was partying that hard at the Dr Martens store.

We then ate tacos at Big Star, the kind of honky tonk hipster taqueria where they play Loretta Lynn's "Fist City." I love Loretta Lynn and I love tacos so sign me up. Lani then took us for spicy chocolate ice cream at the futuristic iCream, where your ice cream is individually churned and made to order.

 I know this is probably meant to entertain children, but I oohhed and ahhed with great respect.


On day two, I did some work at the aforementioned "Big Shoulders" coffee shop, where I ordered a marshmallow latte. Hey, I'm on vacation and it was delicious. I'm just thinking about it now, but a design-y coffee shop selling marshmallow lattes doesn't readily correlate with Carl Sandburg's poem about butchers, tool makers, freight handlers and Chicago brawn.


Later that afternoon, I walked around Wicker Park and tried to shop but nothing caught my eye. Except murals and street art.


Everyone has a single speed because it's so flat here.


Lani has a single speed, and a moped, pictured here! So cool. She is on the fringes of a moped gang, for real. It's a group of guys who hang out and fix up their mopeds. I made her pose with the moped while wearing her cavewoman Halloween costume, assembled from faux fur pieces in her closet.


I forgot to ride the moped on the trip! Doh! I'm secretly terrified. We rode the bus instead, and I was very impressed with how easy it was to get around on public transit.

That evening, I crashed a going away party at Cafe Ba Ba Reeba, with a pre fixe menu. They chose well, and the tapas just kept arriving at the table.


So good. So filling. The fullness level reminded me of a tapas Thanksgiving.


Lani's friends were so nice to let me join in the fun! After dinner, we went to see Flight Facilities' DJ set at Primary. I loved it because I am absolutely obsessed with their song "Crave You" and it was so fun to hear a roomful of people singing along. It's a song you gotta sing to, don't you think? And they played a bunch of other songs I knew, only because I heard them before on Lani's mixes. She's so ahead of the game.


Sorry, shoddy iPhone picture, but you can get an idea of the cool LED wall behind the dj booth. "Wasn't it cute that Flight Facilities dressed up for Halloween, with the little aviator hats?" I told Lani. "Oh that's not a Halloween thing. They always wear that," she said. Ah, I see.

Che Guevara T-shirt

I'm back! Let's do this thing!

So I just returned on Tuesday from a visit to Chicago to see my lovely and amazing friend Lani. More on her and Chicago in future posts. But first I know you are dying to hear my thoughts on topical matters. Namely, Sandy and Halloween. For Halloween this year, I dressed as Andrew WK again. And for the second year, not a single person knew who I was, or had any reaction whatsoever. I need to face facts. The Andrew WK costume is just not going to happen.

In fact, the bouncer at the club — a fancy Chicago speakeasy called Untitled — almost didn't let me in. "Is this some sort of costume?" he said, looking at my white jeans and Brooks running shoes.  Yes, yes, it is. Just because I'm not dressed as a slutty cat, no one can identify that I am in costume?

Thankfully, he eventually let me in, and I got in at Paris Club too, meaning that I visited two clubby, bottle-service establishments wearing running shoes. Holla. I may never go back to stilettos, now that the precedent has been set.

Anyway, when I wasn't wearing ridiculously unsexy Halloween costumes, I was on the phone, attempting to reschedule my flight on Monday back to D.C. because I figured it would be canceled due to the hurricane. On Saturday night, Lani went out to DJ and I stayed home for a bit to deal with Delta. Four hours later, Delta finally called me back and I was on the phone with a guy in India when there was a knock at Lani's door.

It's always a little unsettling when you are alone, not anticipating any visitors and you hear a knock, but I decided to open the door. And here is what I saw:


Photo courtesy of Lani!

Lani's neighbor Benny, dressed exactly like this. He wasn't expecting to see me, and I surely wasn't expecting to see him. I was still on the phone with Delta and I tried to close the door but Benny needed help pulling the t-shirt over the cardboard rigging to complete his Che Guevara t-shirt look, so I attempted to yank the t-shirt down in the back while negotiating flight times on the phone, all the while without even explaining who I was to Benny.

Lani said he won $400 in a costume contest for this. Well deserved, no?