Tag Archives: Low-cost

Chicago: A Multi-National Whirl Wind Tour

Chicago: A Multi-National Whirl Wind Tour

Monday was a red-letter day: a date and an excursion to India and Pakistan – all within two bus rides of our Chicago apartment!

Monday Brian and I rode the Chicago Transit Authority bus #36 north. The bus was rather crowded. I found a seat, but Brian chose to stand.

It takes all kinds!

I was thankful Brian was nearby when a young man across the aisle started singing – loudly. At first it sounded innocent. Something like, “Pancakes and syrup, beans and rice. Pancakes and syrup, spinach and grits. Biscuits and gravy, and…”

The chorus was not related, “Wet t-shirt contest, wet t-shirt contest, wet t-shirt contest… on Thursday…” (?!). It was painful.

Then, the young man started talking (again, loudly) to women as they got on the bus. I tried to read. I was afraid he’d yell out a description of my hair and my clothes too.

None of his comments were off-color, just friendly – and loud –  with a pinch of crazy thrown in. I gave up reading and tried to remember all the great things he was saying.

Is there something in the water?

We got off the bus, crossed the street and – BAM!- in front of us was a local fast food restaurant that sold fried chicken, burgers and fries. On one of their windows was something I never expected to see.

A window sign at Jake's in Chicago.

Rather cheeky...


I snapped a picture and a woman assured me the chicken was delicious.

Jake’s on the north-east corner of Montrose and Broadway.

Nifty Thrift

Brian and I love to thrift shop. We find that if we are picky enough, we can usually find something we like. Our local “Unique” thrift store sells everything for half price on Mondays.

I had just read a style magazine, so I was prepared! Hooray! We both found a couple of things!


North and west… to India?!

We stashed everything in our bags and headed further north on the #36 to Devon Avenue. We switched over to the #155 Devon bus to go west to Rockwell. Our destination: the Indian/Pakistani shops: Patel Brothers and Sukhadia’s Sweets and Snacks.

Inside Patel Brothers

Awesome sauce (and all forms of pickled/curried condiments) at Patel Brothers. Photo courtesy of Google maps.

Here’s an annotated list of our purchases at Patel Brothers.

  • Natural Dahi , 5 pounds plain yogurt. This stuff is really good. It’s plain but not as tart as many plain yogurts. It reminds me of Greek yogurt – just $5.99 for 5 pounds!

    5 pounds of delicious yogurt

    Plain yogurt: my favorite way to temper the heat of spicy curry.

  • Figs – our favorite. They are dried, not mushy like mission figs from our normal “American” grocery store.
  • Dates – 850 grams (nearly 2 lbs) of natural dates. These are like candy. Less than a week later, we have nearly finished them!
  • Chapatti – in a recloseable package that allows you to take the flat bread from the freezer directly to a pan. The package says, “ready to puff”!
SWAD brand flat bread

Instant chappati just 0.99

Other highlights:

  • green onions at 4 bunches /$1.00
  • yellow onions 5 pounds/$1.00
  • fresh ginger & garlic at 79 cents per pound
  • Flavor packets – make it easy to have Indian food. – Be ready to convert grams to oz.

    A couple brands of spice packets.

    The real deal: spice mixes for chicken and chickpea curry, and a vegetable spice mix.

  • Tetley Chai tea is delicious–less obvious than the Starbuck’s variety.
  • Lentils and beans $2.99 per 4 lbs of dried beans. We picked up two bags.
A sampling of the Indian food we purchased: Basmati rice, lentils and other delights!

Basmati rice, lentils and other delights!

All this and more… for just $65.00.


Patel Brothers have several stores across the country. Their closest location is at 2610 West Devon Avenue, Chicago, IL.



The facade of Sukhadia's only hints of the sugar-high waiting inside. Photo courtesy of Google maps.

After shopping, we were ready for a break. We headed to a favorite snack place…Sukhadia. Their counter is a big u-shape. One side with sweets and the other with savory pastries. In the middle is Mr. Sukhadia at the cash register. It always seems busy; several people paying at the same time–money changing hands. Since I don’t speak any of the languages of India, I just smile and bob deferentially!

A sample package of sweets from Sukhadia.

A sample package of sweets from Sukhadia -- some of these sweets are made with flour from chickpeas and lentils and, from the taste, quite a bit of honey!

Sukhadia is at 2559 West Devon Avenue, Chicago, IL 60659.


I hope you can visit our part of the world. Have a great weekend!


Getting greener, one meal at a time


Little things make a big difference: Scotch tape and a red Sharpie marker with Shiro Miso, a mild miso. * Artist Leia Bell created the ceramic tile.

Scotch® tape and a red Sharpie® are my favorite tools against wasting food! This green idea falls in the “reduce” and “reuse” categories of conservation.

By labeling food, we know what each container holds and when we made it. This helps us eat leftovers within two days and trash old food before it gets too gross to bear!

Let’s keep Sesame Street out of it!

Similar to Oscar the Grouch, leftovers can easily become Marvin the Moldy. When it comes to leftover food, days turn into weeks so quickly. It’s a vicious cycle:

  1. Buy groceries, make great food and optimistically save leftovers! It’s so nice to have lunch ready for the next day. Life is great!
  2. Make more food and more leftovers. Gradually the containers fill our fridge shelves. We ignore the increasing number of containers in the refrigerator. Before we know it, we realize our fridge is full, but there’s nothing to eat!
  3. It’s too gross. The food in the fridge is either growing “hair” or learning to talk. We toss all the containers of old food because they are too gross to investigate!
  4. Start over.

But those days are behind us now. My husband is a trained chef. Illinois sanitation regulations for restaurants and food service require that food be labeled and dated. We started doing this at home and it has changed our lives!

Taking charge of the fridge

Here’s what we do…

  • Put Scotch tape (the “magic” kind with a matte finish) on reusable containers.
  • Write the name of the leftovers — with the date. This helps us eat the food in the order we make it and to know when to toss the oldies.
  • We use a red or pink Sharpie marker. Although the markers say “permanent”, after we scrub the containers once or twice, these colors fade. (Black ink is more persistent.) This allows us to reuse the same tape next time around.
  • We save only two servings in the fridge, enough to eat in 2 days – even if only one of us wants to eat the meal again. The rest goes in the freezer, which preserves the food longer.

Added bonus – our food is sanitary. Monk would be proud!

USDA says

Storage times for refrigerated foods…


Storage times for frozen foods…


Bonus Material

P.S. Learn more about Leia Bell, the artist who made the wonderful polar bear tile!

Photo Essay: Lakeview East


When I left the house Friday afternoon, I didn’t know I was starting on a treasure hunt. That’s exactly what my walk turned into!

Book me!

My 1st stop was my neighborhood branch of the Chicago public library — Merlo — at 644 W. Belmont Avenue in Chicago. Merlo’s best how-to, fashion and beauty books are in the Recent Releases upstairs—just to the right of the door. They don’t have a super selection, but it’s a quick way to scan the freshest books.

Close to the recent releases are the movies. They have a quite a few titles. Here’s a secret: due to limited space, they have more titles than they have on display. Use the online reservation system to check availability and/or inter-library loan to get the movies you want.


Going to the birds

Two white doves in a white and blue cage

There's a reason the term "lovey-dovey" was coined.

In route to my next destination, I saw two white doves in the window of Abbot Hotel. The ‘Hotel’ hardly deserves the name – their sign advertises, “Color TVs”! It is a hold over from the days when the neighborhood was less polished. I can just imagine an elderly clerk putting the cooing birds in the window to get some winter sunshine. As I watched, the birds whispered sweet nothings to each other. I raised my cell phone and the doves became shy!

The Abbot Hotel

The Abbot Hotel. Photo courtesy of Google Maps Streetview.

Forward march

The next photo opportunity was literally around the corner at Design. It is in the old location of Jonathan at 3161 N Halsted St, just south of Belmont. They had an awesome window display of furniture, home accessories and – my favorite – necklaces. I loved the combo of elegant furniture and textured necklaces. I wanted to include a link, but I couldn’t find them online.

A still life in the window of Design

A still life in the window of Design

Delilah cut my hair

A few minutes later, I reached the Aveda Institute for my scheduled trim. My student, Delilah, shampooed, trimmed and primped me with Aveda’s natural products. At just $16 (with a no-tipping policy), a basic hair cut is one of the best deals in the city. Since they have been taken over by Michigan-based Douglas J, I think it’s better than ever. For those who remember the biblical story of Samson and Delilah, I’m happy to report that after the hair cut I felt no loss of strength.

Two dimensional

Two Sided seen from the outside.

Two Sided seen from Wellington. Photo courtesy of Google Maps Street View.

Heading to my next errand, I saw a sign on the door of Two Sided. It said something like, “Hey you…something, FREE gift…something, something.” I had to stop in. Two-sided is one of my favorite vintage-flavored gift shops. They offer candles, cards, books and ephemera. The woman at the counter explained that I needed to “Like” them on facebook to receive the free gift. She showed me the most adorable wooden figures and pointed to a poster with a QR (quick response) code that linked to their facebook page.

Dilemma, shilemma

Ooh oh! My cell phone is only half smart. I don’t have the QR ap and I don’t want to pay for the mobile ‘net on my phone. My phone can text and take pictures: that’s it. So, what did I do? I rationalized! I knew I would “Like” them when I got home and second, I would tell people on my blog! I took a picture of the poster and smiled at the lady. She asked me which adorable critter I wanted: owl, rabbit or squirrel. I chose the squirrel. Here are a few more shots of the shop.

The wooden squirrel is made of two pieces of wood that slot together.

My new pet, the two-sided squirrel. The wooden squirrel is made of two pieces of wood that slot together.

The Clark street window of Two Sided is a bonanza of vintage findings.

Doorstop Hedgehog

This little hedgehog doorstop is stole my heart. His little fingers are individually sewn. When you lift him, you can feel the satisfying shift of the bean weight.

I hope you have the opportunity to visit Two Sided or one of its sister stores, Four Sided. Those stores also do framing. (True to my word, I have now “Liked” Four Sided. http://www.facebook.com/Foursided and told you good people about the store!)

Two Sided is at 2958 N. Clark, Chicago, IL (at the SW corner of Clark and Wellington).

Nails away!

Across the street is Ulta. As I opened the door, I saw a fun display of OPI’s spring nail polish. Their spring line is called, “Holland.” Their color names are always so witty (some people would say “punny”). Here are a few:

  • “Wooden Shoe Like To Know?” (a shimmery medium chocolate brown),
  • “Gouda Gouda Two Shoes” (a dark rosey pink) and
  • “A Roll In The Hauge,” (a bright, smooth orange).

If you would like to see a review of the entire Holland collection, check out this blog:

https://www.thepolishaholic.com Holland-collection 

Paper Windmill display of OPI's Holland Collection

I love how intricately this paper windmill is constructed.

On display

You might have noticed that I have a thing about packaging and displays. The OPI display had the cutest folded paper display of a 3 dimensional windmill. After whipping out my phone to take yet another picture, I finally got to the task at hand: I had visited Ulta to redeem my quarterly points.

A point program I like

Based on how much you spend, you earn points. At the end of the quarter you can choose a free product from a pre-set list. For my level 2 gift, I chose a bottle of Nicole by OPI in Enchantress, a sheer opalescent pale pink. A few minutes later I checked out with my free polish and finally headed home.

Thank you!

I feel thankful to live in such a fun corner of Chicago. Thanks for walking with me!

How to: Homemade Apple Cider Vinegar Toner

Apple Cider Toner in a blue bottle, sitting in the window

Today's Forecast: Clear Skin and Sunshine! Isn't this blue spray bottle pretty catching light in the window?

I have a confession: my husband’s skin makes me jealous. Since we follow basically the same skin routine (cleansing, moisturizing, etc), I decided to investigate. I am a can-do girl, I will fight the green-eyed monster! Hopefully, I will achieve softer skin in the process!

After intensive research (we discussed it for 4 minutes), here are my findings:

Difference #1: He shaves. Let’s get this out of the way now: I am not going to start shaving my face!

Difference #2: We have different genes. Nothing, I can do here.

Difference #3: Twice daily he uses a homemade apple cider vinegar toner. Aha! Here’s something I can do.

About two weeks ago I started using the same apple cider vinegar toner. Already I feel a difference!

A bird? A plane? No, it’s Super Cider!

Apple cider vinegar is great for oily skin, which we both have. According to e-how.com, apple cider vinegar is “packed with alpha-hydroxy and amino acids that help to dissolve dead skin cells, balance the pH level of skin and stimulate blood circulation. The acetic acid in apple cider vinegar stimulates the capillaries under the skin, leaving you with a soft glow.” No wonder this toner is so good. It’s actually giving your skin a workout.

What the others don’t mention… 

I’m going to let you in on a secret. This not simply a ‘smell-good toner.’ It starts with a pleasant scent, but it finishes with a spiky vinegar zing! It doesn’t feel very good either–more like a slap in the face and makes my eyes blink. For me, the sting lasts 2 or 3 seconds. I noticed that most of the websites suggest using a cotton ball. I’m going to do that instead of spraying.

It’s probably best to start with more water (1 part cider vinegar, 1 part witch hazel and 6 parts water) to see if your skin tolerates it. In spite of the draw-backs, I am actually enjoying the toner. It’s bracing! And, I can’t argue with the results: my face is softer.

Try it out!

We adapted our recipe from one on SpaIndex.com: Guide to Spas.

Here’s our version. It makes just over 1 cup.

Apple Cider Vinegar Toner

1/3 cup witch hazel
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup distilled water
18 drops of Aura Cacia brand essential oil, “Pep Talk” with cardamom, peppermint, sweet orange and lemon oils (yum!)

Combine all ingredients and shake.

You’ve heard of sun damage? Well, sunlight can damage toner too. So unlike the photo above, we store our toner in the cabinet.

Tell me more!

Here are links for more information. The last one is really good.

SpaIndex.com: Guide to Spas: Apple Toner Recipe

e-how.com: How to Make Apple Cider Vinegar Toner | eHow.com

Skinacea: http://www.skinacea.com/acne/acne-treatment-acv.html

I’d love to hear what toner you use. Leave me a comment.