Post Office Buildings With Character, and Maybe a Sale Price

Post Office Buildings With Character, and Maybe a Sale Price

“Unless the U.S. Postal Service establishes a clear, consistent process that follows federal preservation law when considering disposal of these buildings, a significant part of the nation’s architectural heritage will be at risk.”


Carrot Muffins


I first baked these muffins while writing for the Kovler Diabetes Center – I took a recipe and made a few modifications to make it healthier. I really liked the way they turned out, so I made them again yesterday.


Mmmm - look at all the beta carotene!

Mmmm – look at all the beta carotene!

  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 cups shredded carrots


  1. Combine raisins and water in a small bowl. Let soak for 15 minutes. Drain raisins, discard water and set raisins aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease muffin cups or line with paper muffin liners.
  3. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, applesauce and brown sugar; beat well. Combine egg mixture and flour mixture; mix just until moistened. Fold in carrots and drained raisins. Spoon into prepared muffin cups.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 30 minutes.


The muffins are fantastic on their own, but this time, I decided to whip up a quick cream cheese frosting to go with them. To make this, I added a 2 oz package of cream cheese to a few tablespoons of room temperature butter and whipped them together. Then, I added a cup of confectioner’s sugar and a tablespoon of vanilla and continued to beat the icing until it was smooth and creamy.

I chilled the frosting in a covered bowl, and iced the cupcakes when I was ready to share them!

Bon Appétit!


Midway Gardens, the lost treasure of Hyde Park

As a Hyde Park Resident, I try very hard not to take the architectural splendor of my neighborhood for granted. Not only do we have the breathtaking neo-gothic University of Chicago campus, Hyde Park is home to TWO Frank Lloyd Wright homes, a library by Eero Saarinen, an academic building by Mies van der Rohe, and an apartment complex by I.M. Pei.

Tragically, one of the most impressive structures to ever grace the neighborhood – Midway Gardens, by Frank Lloyd Wright – is long gone. It was built  at the corner of 60th and Cottage Grove in 1914 to be an indoor/outdoor multi-purpose entertainment venue. The design was inspired by beer gardens in Europe, featuring a large open courtyard flanked by three-story enclosures. It was home to many historically signifiant performers (Anna Pavlova, Benny Goodman, the National Symphony Orchestra, etc…) and entertained guests with dining and drinking. During Prohibition, business took a turn for the worse and the building was sold several times before its eventual demolition in 1929.

The building was so solidly constructed that it bankrupted the company that was hired to execute its demolition. Once the construction was torn down, the wreckage was transported to the nearby shore of Lake Michigan, where it was used in the construction of a break wall. Each time I visit Promontory Point, I like to imagine that the breathtakingly scenic park area was carefully pieced together from the ruins of an architectural treasure that I desperately wish I could have visited.

Simple Breakfasts


Breakfast is probably my favorite meal of the day (unless we’re counting brunch, in which case there is no longer a contest). There is something really beautiful about a simple, tasty, well-executed breakfast that makes a person feel good for the entire day! I have several simple breakfasts that I tend to prepare when I am low on time and in need of sustenance.

Oatmeal (5 minutes): McCann’s makes a quick & easy version of their irish oatmeal, which I make with hot water & a splash of almond milk. Trader Joe’s sells an instant variety that is fortified with soy protein and additional vitamins. I usually add a bit of brown sugar and a handful of chopped almonds or walnuts to increase the amount of protein I am consuming. I try to have some fruit and tea, or a glass of orange juice.


Yogurt (5 minutes): I am a big fan of plain Greek yogurt, so it’s a staple meal in my breakfast rotation. It is MUCH more expensive at the grocery stores in Hyde Park than it is at Trader Joe’s, so I always stock up when I visit. For breakfast, I either mix my yogurt with a handful of granola or I add a spoon of fruit preserves and a handful of chopped walnuts. I usually enjoy my yogurt with some sliced apples or a clementines and a cup of  tea.

Soft Boiled Eggs (10 minutes): This advice must be credited to my roommate Dory, who received it via twitter from Christopher Kimball back in October. Prior to that date, soft boiled eggs had eluded me…


It works like a charm, and the 6.5 minute wait gives me just enough time to make some tea, toast, and fruit to pair with the protein.

Scrambled Eggs (10 minutes): I give mine a healthy dose of thyme, rosemary, salt, pepper, and milk. Then, I top with freshly grated parm and halved cherry tomatoes.


Grilled Sourdough (15 minutes): This, too, comes from Dory. Before we bought a toaster (and after I burnt several pieces of toast in the oven, thus angering the fire alarm), she suggested that I cook my bread on our griddle with some butter. The bread I was using at the time? Sourdough. It turned out to be such a marvelously tasty idea that I repeat it often (even though we now own a toaster). It tastes great with honey, jam, or nothing.


Smoothies (15 minutes): It wasn’t until a quarter of the way through our lease that I realized how useful my roommates’ blender could be —  and then began my love affair with smoothies. Frozen berries, pineapple slices, whole orange citrus fruits (sans peels), greek yogurt, and almond milk… you cannot go wrong.

IMG_1356I could probably fill this whole blog with quick (but fulfilling!) breakfast ideas, but these are enough to get you through the next schoolweek — Bon Appétit!


Good Coffee at Home

I have been interested in coffee for as long as I can remember. It is a hobby that I inherited from my papa during my toddler years — he used to let me put a teaspoon of coffee in my milk when we shared breakfast on weekend mornings so that I could feel like a sophisticated adult. Now that I have my own apartment, the interest has only grown! Here are a few tips on how to get started with making good coffee at home, provided by my experiences and that of James & Aaron from the dotCross Coffee Project.

  • The Beans: It is crucial to purchase good beans. Ground coffee loses freshness 9 minutes after grinding, so be sure to purchase whole bean coffee! For the best results, try to buy beans that have been locally roasted by a small coffee company. If you’re in Chicago, Intelligentsia, Counter-Culture, Metropolis, and the many small roasters around have great products. Commercial retailers with consistently good coffee include Whole Foods, which roasts in-store, and Trader Joe’s (their Costa Rican Terrazu is a solid all-around coffee). Things to think about: Are you purchasing a blend, or single-origin? How are the beans roasted? (light roasts are usually more flavorful than dark roasts)
  • The Brew Method: There are many different ways to brew good coffee at home, but Aaron & James recommend that beginners use an Aeropress, which allows users to steep coffee in a cylindrical tube and then use a plunger to push the liquid through a filter and into a cup. It costs less than $30, and is easier for beginners to use a steeping method like the Aeropress (which is similar to the French Press, but easier to clean) because they do not have to develop the brewing skills necessary for pour-over coffee. Pour-over methods include the Hario V60, a $19 ceramic cone that allows users to pour water directly over the beans, which is filtered through a disposable paper filter and poured directly into the cup. A larger version of the same pour-over concept is the Chemex, a glass mechanism that allows users to brew multiple cups of pour-over coffee simultaneously. I have used a Chemex for my home brewing over the past few months, and it is now my coffee preparation method of choice!

Ultimately, the tools needed to make good coffee at home cost around $60 and the return on investment continues for years!


Coconut Oil


“Once a Villan, Coconut Oil Charms the Health Food World”

Coconut oil has been generating a great deal of buzz in contemporary culinary circles as a healthy fat and alternative to butter, but I have recently discovered its magical powers as a beauty product! I use it as a lip balm, a foot treatment, a hair mask, and an all-around moisturizer.

Today, I used it to rejuvenate my curls after they suffered single-digit temperatures and 20MPH winds (Chicago winter, go away!).



Coconut oil is a very stable fat that is liquid above 75 degrees and solid below that temperature. As it warms up in the palm, it will melt to a consistency that can be easily massaged into the hair and scalp.


Apply the oil liberally to wet or dry hair, focusing on coating the damaged ends and strands but also working the oil into the scalp. After massaging it into the hair, braiding or twisting the hair into a bun OR wrapping it in a turban (or makeshift turban made of plastic wrap) will allow the oil to penetrate the hair without making a mess on clothes or other linens. Leave the oil in the hair for the desired length of time (which can range from half an hour to overnight) and then wash hair thoroughly with cleanser or conditioner.

*I frequently choose to wash the oil from my hair with a glassful of apple cider vinegar rinse made of roughly 1 part vinegar, 3 parts water. I follow by rigorously cleansing with conditioner.*

photo5After the coconut oil treatment, my hair is left shiny & healthy!


Lemon, Chicken, and Rice Soup

This is one of my very favorite recipes! I make it at least once a month during Fall and Winter, and every time I have a cold. The tanginess of the lemon and buttery smooth texture really make a basic chicken soup exciting!


  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth (or, 4 cups broth & 2 cups water)
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1-2 cups long grain rice
  • 3-4 eggs
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice (minimum 3 lemons)
  • splash of cream or milk
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • sea salt & ground black pepper to taste


Combine chicken broth, carrots, bay leaf, salt, and pepper with chicken breasts in a large soup pot. Cover and gently simmer over low heat for 25-30 minutes or until chicken is thoroughly cooked. Remove chicken breasts and return soup to boil. Add rice and simmer for 20 minutes. While rice is cooking, let chicken cool slightly and pull or cut into manageable sized pieces. Set aside, then add chicken back to soup after rice has cooked and simmer for another 3-5 minutes.

Whisk eggs until they are frothy, and add in lemon juice and splash of cream/milk. Add a cup of the hot soup to egg-lemon mixture, very slowly, whisking while you pour it in. Add another cup in the same manner. Take soup off the heat and add egg mixture. Sprinkle with parsley, season with pepper and serve.

Bon appétit!


Small Space Style (on an even smaller budget)

I don’t want to come out and immediately proclaim, “my bedroom looks like it was styled by Anthropologie!” but the truth is, whenever friends come over to my apartment, that very remark is usually among the first that they make. In fact, my roommates were so struck by the comparison upon moving in that they told their friends how much my room reminded them of Anthro and had to share pictures to reinforce their opinions. Their friends apparently agreed.


Me + My Room

The fact of the matter is — practically NOTHING in my room was actually purchased at Anthropologie! I am a longtime fan of the store, so I suppose I was inspired by the Anthropologie aesthetic as I pulled different pieces together, but the majority of my furniture and accessories were purchased very inexpensively and from various retailers.

After thanking many friends for their flattering feedback on my decor, I began to realize that some of my design elements really do seem to be inspired by Anthro. A bit of research revealed that some my items could even be convincing doppelgängers for products in the Anthro catalogue and other fabulous places above my price range… I will go ahead and share a few of my favorite products, and the (much) more expensive versions that they resemble!

The bed: I purchased a simple, cheap pine bedframe from Ikea (they call it the Fjellse). This is a decision that I now somewhat regret, since the frame is not quite sturdy and the slats tend to fall out of the frame on a semi-daily basis. However, the aesthetic design of the product is exactly what I wanted in a bed, and the entire thing was under $100, so it serves a great purpose while I am still in college. The upgraded style of this piece is from Room & Board (they call it the Grove Bed), and it retails for $1,299.

Ikea vs Room & Board

Ikea vs Room & Board

The Bedding: I went with the Alvine Strå duvet cover set in brown, which is made from 190 thread count combed cotton and retails for $39.99 at Ikea. It reminds me of Anthropologie’s cotton voile Quilla duvet cover set, which costs $346.00 (duvet cover and shams retail separately).

Ikea vs Anthropologie

Ikea vs Anthropologie

photo 4

The Dresser: I picked up this adorable vintage dresser from a UChicago graduate student who was moving overseas and had to sell all of his furniture quickly. It cost me $20 – much cheaper than anything I could find at Ikea – and is very sturdy! I love it so much that I would definitely attempt to take it with me if I move away from the city, but should I ever need to part with it, I could probably make a sizable profit (considering my low initial investment) selling it as a mid-century piece on Craigslist.

The Curtains: I picked up these Lappljung curtains at Ikea for $14/pair (the sheers were $5/pair) and they really make the room! The bold, floor to ceiling print gives the small space a hefty dose of drama, and the colour adds a lot of cheer! I’ll be the first to admit that the fabric isn’t the greatest — they’re 70% polyester — but they have a similar effect to the $268.00 Tawi curtains from Anthropologie.

Ikea vs Anthropologie

Ikea vs Anthropologie

Lighting: Lighting can do a lot to make a space feel luxe. By incorporating accent lighting, I am able to make the room feel cozier and more finished. I love my Barometer floor lamp from Ikea because it is classic and sturdy – and it only cost me $49.99. It also reminds me of the Tolomeo floor lamp from Design Within Reach, which retails for $700.

Ikea vs DWR

Ikea vs DWR

photo 2Decorative Elements: I am wholly convinced that the decorative elements really make the space feel like my home and add the extra touches that make it worthy of compliments! I think that like lighting, rugs really pull spaces together and make them feel more personal. I was fortunate to receive mine as a gift from my parents, and I love it!

Bamboo is an easy (and inexpensive) way to add color and life to a space, so I have several sprouts growing on my dresser and in a windowsill. (Ikea, again, is a great place to purchase bamboo at $1 or $2 per stalk, pebbles, and interesting vases of every shape, size, and colour at shockingly low prices.)

I have also incorporated a lot of decorative glassware, which provides useful and beautiful storage for everything from makeup brushes to pens to cotton balls. (It’s also a great way to recycle mason jars, empty candles jars, and other glass containers!)

photo 1Items from my childhood home & family make the room feel a lot more ‘mine’ – this chair was made by my great-grandfather, and the quilt was made by my great-grandmother. While these are the types of items that Anthropologie obviously cannot sell, I feel like their products often tend to evoke memories of personal, hand-made items like those found in cozy, personal family-collections.

Ikea sells miniature wooden artist’s mannequins (the type that are used for learning draw the human body), and they make great jewelry-display storage because they are the perfect shape and size for holding necklaces and rings.

Cavalini & Co. Wrapping Paper can also be used to make great, inexpensive decorations (as I wrote about here) and wall-hangings.

Hand-made elements are also a great way to evoke the personal, intimate decorative details that make Anthropologie’s style such an appealing model.

photo 2

You can make a portrait rail by stretching a wire (or clothesline) across the length of the wall and hammering the ends securely with furniture nails, which make beautiful thumb tacks. Then, decorative clips can be used to suspend photos, cards, and other lightweight decorative items from the wire to create a large installation.

My favorite decorative element is my paper crane mobile, which I designed with my brother this summer. We took a branch and attached around 30 miniature paper cranes, which resulted in a labor-intensive yet virtually free piece of art. I think it’s breathtaking, and I hung it over my bed so that I can gaze at the fluttering birds while I am falling asleep or waking up.

photo 1My biggest secret: I do have something from Anthropologie. They happen to sell some great candles, which are constantly burned in their stores and retail for $28. Burning an Anthropologie candle makes my room smell like Anthro, which probably makes people associate my space with the store – it could be that absolutely none of my meticulously selected items evoke the eponymous style. Olfactory association is a powerful thing. Just a thought. Either way, I think my room is a nice place to live, and I certainly enjoy spending time there!