happy birthday, lu

Happy birthday to my sweet Lu! Today is his day and now he’s on a conference call (poor guy, working on his birthday!). I’m left with some time do to a quick recap of our day.
it’s the birthday bean
I slept in and Lu got up to do a little work from home this morning. Again, poor guy. He shouldn’t be working so hard on his birthday. But he’s just dedicated like that and it’s one of the things I love about him. When I got up, I made him a Mexican birthday breakfast of eggs, quesadillas and some fresh fruit. We spent much of the day together. We had a birthday dinner at a local restaurant. Then we came home for cupcakes and opening presents. It was an enjoyable day.
Now about those cupcakes. I am starting to love any excuse to use my kitchen-aid mixer so I decided to step out of the boxed cake mix world and make my first homemade-from-scratch cupcakes.  I spent some time in the past few days researching which recipe to use. This red velvet cupcake is what I selected. Magnolia Bakery is delicious so I was all for using their recipe. The baking process took several hours. Granted I had to make two trips to the grocery store because I couldn’t seem to get all of the items on my list the first time. Also, I had some trouble not dying my kitchen towels and my hands when adding the red food coloring. Despite those setbacks, the cupcakes turned out to be sooo good! They weren’t like oh-my-goodness this is the best cupcake I’ve ever eaten good but they were pretty darn delicious and I am proud of my first attempt at making cupcakes from scratch.
birthday platter. way too many cupcakes for two people.

cupcake for my bean.

I’d definitely recommend the recipe if you have the time to make from scratch! If not, then box mix red velvet is usually pretty amazing, too (and fifteen minute prep time tops). Happy birthday, Lu!

xxoo, laura

viva mexico

Last week I made my very first trip to Mexico with my very own Mexican. In all of my twenty-six years, I have never ventured south of the border… No spring breaks in college, no family vacation. Granted I have been on some pretty fabulous trips, but finally visiting Mexico was quite exciting. It was a lovely vacation; we went to celebrate Lu’s grandma’s 84th birthday and spend some time at la playa. Let’s recap. Be forewarned that many pictures lie ahead. Seriously, a lot of pictures.
We landed in Mexico City Friday afternoon, and we were ravenous. Immediately we looked for some local grub while waiting for Lu’s brother to land from Atlanta. By local grub I mean…. Carl’s Jr where I had quite possibly the best hamburger I’ve ever eaten. Once joined by Steve, we boarded a bus from the airport to Lu’s uncle’s house in Cuernavaca. I don’t mean to be judgmental but riding a bus in Mexico City? Sounded a bit shady to me at first. I am happy to say that I was sorely mistaken. It was really nice and comfortable. There was an attendant who served drinks and cookies, we watched a movie, and the scenery was gorgeous. Despite all of the negative press Mexico gets for the violence and danger in the country, I felt so safe the entire time. Not once did I feel threatened or nervous even for a moment. 
Cuernavaca is known for being the city of eternal spring. It was in the upper 60s when we arrived and I was freezing! I packed shorts, tanks and summer dresses anticipating some hot heat. Note to self: check weather forecast prior to packing and don’t assume closer to the equator means hotter. Cuernavaca is in the mountains, which is one reason it was chilly. This also happens to be their rainy season. Anyway, Lu’s grandmother, aunt, uncle and cousins live in Cuernavaca [La abulea de Lu, tio, tia y sus primos viven en Cuernavaca]. I got to work on my Spanish skills! Lu’s abulea doesn’t speak a lick of English although she understands a lot. His aunt and uncle can get their point across well. His cousins can converse more fluidly. But needless to say, the majority of the vacation was in Spanish. Many thanks to Senor Rosenthal for giving me the gift of Spanish fluency…. oh wait… not.

Lu’s family’s house was very cool. I love these brick ceilings.
grandma & grandons

In Cuernavaca, we stayed in a cute, quaint hotel called Hotel Villa del Conquistador.  My favorite thing about this place was probably their brunch buffet. I love breakfast and they had quite the spread each morning. Abuela’s birthday party was also held in a salon room there on Saturday night. There was a lot of love for Lu’s grandmother in that room. She is a wonderful lady, and it was a wonderful evening complete with good company, a Mariachi band and lots of Coronitas!

our room
the pool
lots of fountains at the hotel (and in the city) and lots of foliage!
the party room
Walkers are beautiful people!

senora walker
los nietos con abuela
let us eat cake
self portrait. can ya tell?

On Sunday, Lu, his dad and I walked around el centro, the downtown of Cuernavaca. We toured a mansion owned by a man born in, where else, Iowa. Ha! I got a kick out of that. His name was Robert Brady and he was a rich man who moved to Mexico, collected art, and built a huge house. We went to the city market, which engaged all of the senses – vibrant colors, city buzzing, smells from food vendors, and the sun on our faces.

narrow brick streets were charming
colorful buildings, also charming
courtyard in the mansion
the mansion. not so shabby.
lu and his dulce papa
the market
the market

On Monday, we took off for the beach. Lu’s family has a fabulous condo in Alcapulco. We spent the next couple days at the beaches and pools. It was paradise. We took a boat ride to a remote beach one day, and I saw the largest waves I’ve ever seen in my life. They were towering over us. It looked very dangerous and intimidating. One evening we went to a spectacular event at La Quebrada where young men climb up cliffs in speedos and then dive off when the tide comes in (timing is key!). I couldn’t help but wonder how they felt on their very first cliff dive. And what gives somebody the gusto to do that? I had knots in my stomach just watching. Acapulco was awesome.

take us to the beach!
Acapulco is a three hour car ride from Cuernavaca. the landscape was picturesque the entire way.
overlooking acapulco bay
beans in stripes
steve & i decided that Lu is happiest when splashing around in water. he’ll be a fun dad one day.

primos y el mar
men being men & braving the huge waves
i had to yell at Lu to get out of the water! era muy peligroso. he’s not stronger than the ocean.
beach. with beds and hammocks. what more could you want?

On the drive home from Acapulco, we stopped at a small town, Taxco. This town is known for mining silver and crafting jewelry. It’s situated on a very steep mountain. It was such a delightful little Mexican town. Above the town, there is a Christ monument. The statue is situated at the highest point of the city and overlooks Taxco with arms outstretched. We ventured up the steep grade to see the site.

the church of taxco
townsmen crafts
too cute. mother & son.
photo bomb in bottom left. she didn’t want to be in my picture! and the little boy wonders why.
Taxco. Cool buildings.
of all of the jewlry in all of Taxco, she chose the world’s smallest earrings. just to be a little different.

christ monument

A note on the cuisine– Mexican food is good! We ate chilaquiles. We had several meals of tacos and quesadillas. On our second to last day, I had to say no to tacos for breakfast because I was starting to overdo it on Mexican food. Overdo it on Mexican? Those are words I never thought I’d say. I love Mexican food but I suppose everything is best in moderation.  One thing I didn’t try was the chicarron… I probably would have liked it but I just couldn’t pull the trigger. It goes without saying but the fresh fruit and juices in Mexico were out of this world. Mmmmm. I couldn’t get enough. The esquites may have stolen the show. Esquites is a snack of corn, lime juice, mayo, and hot sauce. We had ours served in a doritos bag and it reminded me of walking tacos sold in the ped mall in Iowa City…. but better! I had sweet bread, pan dulce, such as churros at the hotel brunch. Yum. We had barritas, one of Lu’s favorite childhood treats. Yum yum yum. Treats indeed.

the best grapefruit juice i’ve ever had. me encanta la toronja.
kind of like a poptart. without the best part frosting

I had a wonderful vacation. Of course it went all too fast. I wish we had more days there to explore the country and be with family. I’m sure we’ll venture back sometime soon but in the meantime it’s back to reality and back to work for both of us tomorrow. I wish my life was a permanent vacation! Don’t you?


here comes the bride

This weekend I ventured to Iowa City for my good friend, Katie’s bridal shower. The shower, hosted by her aunt, was fabulous. We ate, we drank mimosas, and we played shower games. Let it be known that I tied for first place in the “who knows Katie best” game. It’s strange how well I know her… I mean we’ve only been friends since elementary school. Katie looks so beautiful, thin, tan and all of those other things you want to be when your wedding is approaching. But most importantly, she looked happy – the happiest I’ve ever seen her! She was glowing. The shower was absolutely wonderful. Let’s take a look at the pictures.
gourmet eats
shower games
bride & maid of honor
the bride & the hostess
the bride with her attendants
three generations
After the shower, we hit up the Athletic Club. For those who don’t know, the Athletic Club is kind of like a country club complete with an outdoor pool. I spent many, many summer days of my childhood at the Athletic Club. Going back yesterday was quite nostalgic. Part of me felt like I hadn’t been there in decades. But part of me felt like it was just yesterday. What a strange dichotomy of feelings. Katie and I shared some chicken fingers with fries just like the good old days except this time there was wine involved. We ordered two glasses of chardonnay. What did the bartender give us? An igloo water-cooler size mug of wine. I guess that’s how they do it in Iowa these days. Saturday night we hung out at Katie’s parents’ house and again I was taken back to the days of our youth. I spent countless hours in that house! Being there for the weekend was such a treat. 
the athletic club. it was empty because it was 100 degrees out!
Sunday morning was leisurely. We ate Bruegger’s bagels. We looked at Katie’s engagement announcement in the local newspaper. We eventually packed our things and while I went off to Chicago, Katie went home to Minneapolis. Although, my journey got off to a rough start. I decided to make a pit stop at Von Maur because sometimes a girl has just gotta shop. In the Von Maur parking lot, I notice a nail sticking out of my front tire. Uh-oh. I stared at it for probably a full minute and then did what I always do when I don’t know what to do. I called Lu. He told me to take it to a tire shop and have them patch it. I obliged. Except that they couldn’t patch the tire! The mechanic told me that the nail was placed in a spot that wasn’t safe for patching. He also said he couldn’t recommend that I drive to Chicago on that tire. I ended up having to purchase new tires. Ouch. Not only were we set back the cost of the new tires but also the cost of the four new dresses I purchased while I waited for them to fix my car. Double ouch. But the dresses are really cute and shopping in Iowa City is always a bargain compared to these Michigan Ave prices! I have to say I am satisfied with my purchases today… except for those darn tires. I made it home in good time and found the big frijol waiting for me. I missed that guy! We’ll be going back to Iowa City together in just over three weeks for Katie’s nuptials. I cannot wait!! Bridesmaid diet commencing tomorrow. 
xxoo, ltw

independence day

I love the fourth of July. I love it because it’s the epitome of summer. I always feel nostalgia when it’s over, and I get a little sad that we have to wait a whole year before we can enjoy the holiday again. This year, it was one million degrees in Chicago. Well, not quite. It was 102. You heard me, one hundred and two degrees. It was sunny with not a cloud in the sky. Exactly the day I was hoping for in Chicago. 
wrigley building
Lu and I spent the afternoon at Oak Street beach with Matt and Kelly. We were out there with all of the other crazy people. Really, who goes outside when it’s 102? But to be honest, that 102 air temperature was not the problem. The biggest problem was the 500 degree sand on our toes. Even with flip flops on, the sand burned our feet so badly. It was truly traumatic. Matt, Kelly and Lu ventured to the water, which I am told was pretty chilly. I held down the fort and stayed on my safe spot, the towel. We survived the day without a sunburn or heat exhaustion. A success, if you ask me.
matt, kelly & lu. beach bums.
oak street beach
oak street beach
After the beach, we grabbed a quick lunch and frozen lemonades at Panera. I just need to say that their Greek salad hits the spot every time. I’m obsessed. Then we headed south to our apartment for a BBQ with family and several other friends. Lu and I have been wanting to grill all summer but the dilemma is that we don’t own a grill. You know, just a minor detail. Matt told us about a “disposable grill” sold at Walgreens for $4. Talk about ghetto. But he piqued our interest so we bought five and figured we’d give it a go.
disposable $4 charcoal grill.
Believe it or not, the burgers and hotdogs were amazing! I was totally impressed with these things. I should also give props to Matt and Lu for manning the grills in that excessive heat. They had sweat dripping off of their faces. Poor guys! We were joined by my parents and several of our Booth friends. We drank beers, ate burgers, and enjoyed an all-American evening. Kelly made a flag cookie that officially put me over the limit of indulgence and into the uncomfortable-food-baby-stomach zone. My diet started today. 
12 inch mini-quick disposable grill. haha.
adam & meghan. the future bride & groom! :)
the girls. meghan, deana, me

missing deana’s hub!
fireworks over lake michigan
Both of my parents left the party early and I didn’t get to capture a picture with them! It was such a fun holiday. Today I had to go back to work, and it totally felt like a Monday in every sense of the word. I wish we could have days like the fourth of July every day of summer. Although, if we did I’d be a 300 lb oaf with a beer drinking problem. Hope you all had a wonderful holiday! Let’s do it again next year. 
xxoo, ltw

cheers to Kelly!

Happy birthday, Kelly!! My little bro’s girlfriend, Kelly, is basically a part of the family now. She is so sweet, nice…. all of those positive adjectives! On her birthday, it was only appropriate to celebrate in a fun way last Friday night. Storm clouds rolled in on Friday morning and it was so dark that we had to turn on the lights in our apartment. I was bummed because rain can put a damper on things! But a couple hours before the celebration was to begin, the storm clouds parted and a gorgeous evening ensued.  We began with a few drinks at Wells on Wells. This bar has a cute beer garden in the back. And it also happens to be a Hawkeye bar. A win-win.
birthday girl! her shirt was so cute. wish it had taken a full body pic.
After drinks, we took her to Topo Gigio in Old Town. This place has some of the most delicious Italian I think I’ve ever eaten! It’s so yummy. We were joined by my parents and about a hundred of our closest Chicago friends… Topo Gigio is extremely LOUD. I felt like I was shouting across the table. But the cute Tuscan ambiance and amazing food trumps any and all loudness. 
my selection: chicken stuffed w/ prosciutto, fontina, spinach & sun-dried tomatoes. cooked in porcini mushroom sauce.
birthday girl with tortellini!
beans. and momma.
The evening culminated with, what else, gelato. The birthday girl also got a special treat from yours truly… some brownie bites with cream cheese frosting. I haven’t had brownies in a while. I had forgotten about those little devils.
twenty-three! wishing you a wonderful year.
Anybody want to take me to Italy now? I have Italy on the mind and I’d go there tomorrow if I could. Who’s in? I’ll leave you with a few pictures.
xoxo, ltw

the dirty south

A couple weeks ago Lu, my mom and myself ventured down to the dirty south. I was looking forward to a weekend of sticky hot heat and blinding sun. Instead we were greeted with overcast skies followed by rain. All day long. But of course we still managed to have a wonderful time. For those who don’t know, Lu’s mom and brother both live in Atlanta. I’ve now been there a handful of times. It’s a fun city! 
Given that momma Joan has become quite the little dancer, we decided to hit a dance club on our first night there. We were specifically looking for a salsa club. What did we find? A gay, Latin dance club. Did we go? You better believe it. Lu included. I bet he never imagined to be at gay Latin night with his wife, his mom and his mother-in-law. There was a drag show that started at 130 am. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it quite that late. In fact, when we showed up at 10 pm, we were the very first ones to arrive. I suppose that gay Latin crowd starts the party laaate!
mamas dancing. first ones on the dance floor!
beans in the club
the ladies
The next couple days were spent eating delicious food and enjoying time together. Susana cooked for us and it was so good. We went to see Lu’s brother’s gym – he owns a crossfit gym.
fresh squeezed oj courtesy of lu
arepas, orange/papaya juice, homemade salsa, fresh fruit. heaven.
lu’s a goober. at steve’s gym, BTB fitness.
The boys woke up early on Sunday to watch the end of the French Open male final, Nadal vs Djokovic. This is what I found when I came downstairs.
sleeping dudes
Sunday evening we ate a southern comfort dinner. Fried chicken, mac and cheese, german chocolate cake. The only thing missing was Ms Paula Dean herself. Holy heavy foods. This lead to me being swollen the next morning from sodium overload and feeling like a oaf. We did have some friends join us for dinner and it was a lovely evening despite the gluttony. And my loose fitting blouse hid the food baby.
our moms at dinner. beautiful ladies!
friends in a food coma
It was a fun but very quick weekend trip. My work schedule sure does hinder my social life. We’ll be going back to Atlanta soon, no doubt. Hopefully next time we’ll get that hot, hot heat that Atlanta is experiencing right now. I heard they hit a record of 105 this week. Wowza. 
xoxo, ltw