Freddy & Fredericka: The Most Fun(est) Prince & Princess

Books - Chicago

I’m supposed to be studying for the FSOT. The Foreign Service Office Exam. The reading list is not a joke. To procrastinate and distract myself (I know) I have been trying to read other things between heavy books on conflict resolution and Middle Eastern history.


This particular book, I finished a few weeks ago. Freddy and Fredericka, by Mark Helprin. After reading Winter’s Tale this was a humorous change. As with his other works, it was incredibly smart. Usually when you’re in public reading a book– on the bus or at a restaurant bar, or waiting for your abs class to start– you read a funny passage in a book a chuckle to yourself, very quietly, or even silently in your head. Not so with this book. I laughed out loud at the gym, on the bus, and at work while eating my lunch. I couldn’t not laugh. Sometimes I actually cried I was laughing so hard.

Freddy and Frederica are the Prince and Princess of Wales. They are every vapid, silly and spoiled stereotype. We can already trust that Helprin writes an intelligent, witty and incredibly insightful story. Freddy and Fredericka are set to inherit the throne of England, but one thing stands in the way. Freddy must first pass a test; Craig Vyvan, the falcon, must lift off into the sky from Freddy’s outstretched arm. He has five chances to do this, but so far Craig Vyvan has not chosen to fly anywhere. Needless to say the kind and queen are quite worried and call on an ancient celtic magician (Merlin?) who nowadays works in a dildo factory in Naples, to teach Freddy and Fredericka all the lessons they need to learn before becoming Kind and Queen.

The task they are given, as Brits, is to reconquer the Colonies, those insolent ungrateful revolutionaries, and they are supposed to do it with no money, and initially, not even any clothes. By the end of the story Freddy and Fredericka have traveled from New Jersey through the Deep South, North to Chicago, and West to the Rocky Mountains. If they don’t conquer America in the traditional sense they do in a much more important and almost magical sense. They understand during their travels, while working menial jobs and finding joy in earning your own way that there is true happiness and contentment in finding out who you are truly. Instead of being trite, Helprin succeeds in writing a spectacular story about the American Dream and how it’s there for anyone who is willing to look inside themselves to achieve it.

Hare Brains and the Comfy Grey Area


I have taken a bit of time off from my blog to think, and to think about not thinking, and to make some decisions about my life. Where do I want my career to go? What kind of writing style do I want for this blog? I have noticed a few posts published lately by fellow bloggers about being unsure sometimes about what adult life is supposed to look like. Where are we supposed to be in our lives at this point? Everyone else seems to have it so ‘together’…

Sometimes the picture we portray online isn’t the same as the one ‘behind the curtain’. I think that’s fine, but I definitely agree with those ladies who admit that the ‘quarter life crisis’ is a thing, and not having everything as figured out as you thought is okay too.

fox michigan

Sometimes I like to leave things half way done– or better yet just in their ‘idea’ stages. If something stays an idea, a hypothetical, it is still potentially a success, and cannot yet be a failure. Right now I am working on getting my writing and other projects out of that safe grey area and into the light. Whatever happens– whether the ideas fall flat or some are a success, I have to try. This goes for many areas in my life not just my writing and hopefully soon ‘Nothing ventured nothing gained’ will mean a lot more than to me than it has in the past.

From this blog you can expect to hear stories, read essays and articles and get book reviews. I won’t be recommending restaurants, or clothing or brands of toothpaste, but hopefully entertaining you with the time that I went into a strangers house because it was a Jewish holiday and they needed the help of a Gentile to light a candle. Or what happens when you enjoy a brunch by yourself. Maybe you need some good book recommendations for the beach this summer. I will do my best to entertain, maybe educate and most definitely give you something new to read.

H.H. Holmes: The Hare Reads

Books - Chicago

DWCityYes, I know, as soon as the movie is announced the book gets immensely popular. Devil in the White City was originally recommended to me by my mom, we share a love of murder mysteries and we both burned through Patricia Cornwell’s Dr. Scarpetta series faster than was strictly necessary.

Devil in the White City is doubly interesting to me because it’s not just a murder mystery. Erik Larson gives us intelligent historical context that is easy to read through. Those of us living in today’s Chicago will marvel at the Chicago of the 1890s during the World’s Fair. Readers will recognize areas of Chicago that were brand new and home to the rich– industrialists, bankers and business men as well as the very poor.

Daniel H. Burnham brought Chicago, and the world, an exposition that surpassed everyone’s expectations. There were exhibitions from the furthest corners of the globe as well as new inventions (Ferris’s Wheel). He built entire cities from the ground up and extensive gardens from nothing. All this to delight thousands and satisfy his competitive streak– this Fair was going to be better than the one in Paris if it was the last thing he did.

H.H. Holmes was busy dazzling his audience too. There’s still speculation as to how many people Holmes actually killed. Holmes himself confessed to 30 murders, but the number of bodies may actually be much higher. There were so many that police had no way of matching them up or putting them back together. Holmes, while being the first serial killer (in the modern sense of the word) was also a world class con-man. He was originally caught for insurance fraud, the rest of his crimes came to light only later. He used his charm on women and men alike and did a booming business in his “Murder Castle” during the World’s Fair.

Burnham’s and Holme’s stories unfold simultaneously and sometimes overlap creating a suspenseful and truly scary story.

Whether you read this book for a gripping history lesson and a unique insight into 1890s Chicago, or you just want to read it before seeing Leonardo DiCaprio take the role in the movie, I highly recommend this novel. You won’t be able to put it down until it’s done.

Hotel Dining: Chicago Mini Tour

Chicago - Travel

A while ago I introduced the idea of making your city, wherever you happened to be, a place where you could explore, the same as if you were on a vacation or trip. Personally I like to call them adventures and adventures that involve food are my kind of adventures.

Just recently I went out to dinner by myself. I was at XOCO in Wicker Park. It was good. I sat on the patio with a book and enjoyed a meal before running an errand and going back home. Not something I do all the time, but something that, when I have the funds, I enjoy doing.

Eating out is one treat that you do allow yourself when you travel. When I travel I have eaten out at fancy spots, as well as gone to the convenience store for the microwave meal and a box of cookies (try cooking a microwave pasta dish with instructions only in Swedish).

Luckily I live in Chicago, and it happens to be one of the best cities to eat out in. Yes I may be biased, but there are too many great places to count. This time, I’m writing about the underrated but very delicious hotel restaurant.

Normally when you go out to eat and you are at home you don’t choose a hotel. And when you travel, choosing the hotel as a place to eat feels like a cop-out. “I want to go where the locals go” you say. “A real, authentic spot, tucked away…with no tourists.” So the hotel doesn’t always win out.

Here are five places that not only have excellent food, but they give off a “tucked away” vibe as well as a “bustling local hot-spot” vibe. And depending on your mood each is equally valuable.

Let’s start in the order I discovered these wonderful restaurants. The Pump Room is a favorite among my friends, and is among one of the notable restaurants in the city. It’s made a name as one of the best spots in the city to eat dinner and enjoy cocktails. Any night of the week is a good night to visit Pump Room, you’ll never feel like it’s too early or too late (some restaurants don’t have the right vibe early in the week—others aren’t quite right for a Friday either—not so with Pump Room) and you’ll always get a spectacular meal. I was privileged enough to try some of Chef Ross’s creations at a menu presentation and each bite was more spectacular than the last.

Both W Hotel locations came out of nowhere for me. I’d never been to either hotel up to that point and didn’t know what to expect when I went to eat their new menus but I was pleasantly surprised—or more accurately pleasantly floored by what I tasted. The W Hotel City Center presented a menu inspired by tastes of South America—I still remember the vanilla ice cream and chocolate dessert garnished with tiny woodland mushrooms to this day. It made a refreshing change from the endless iterations of pork belly and bacon and was a menu honed enough to do more than generally claim that it was ‘farm to table’.

The W Hotel Lakeshore location boasts a beautiful restaurant, quiet and perfectly tucked away for when you want that kind of thing. The food is spectacular from the perfectly cooked scallops to the slices of fresh bread that came with a divine concoction of warm house made honey butter. Everything was presented in a way that wasn’t trying too hard and managed to be just enough to make sitting at a hotel looking out over the water on a cool, Chicago spring evening the perfect way to end a Tuesday.

If the W Hotel Lakeshore is where you go to escape, then NoMi Garden and Kitchen is where you go to see and be seen. In the summer especially, the beautiful rooftop is always busy—in Chicago it must be—we make the most of our short, sweet summers before hunkering down for winter. Sushi Heaven. That’s what NoMi Garden is. An oasis of seafood made to perfection.

The Westin Hotel in River North hosted the Windy City Bloggers for a happy hour and their outdoor space is a garden oasis in the middle of the city. It’s also inspired by a Japanese garden and is an amazing terrace space for an event or wedding. The Westin (and I am loathe to give away this secret!!) has a house made limited addition whiskey, as well as the most scrumptious sangria you will ever taste. Stop by the bar on the way home, or better yet an evening get together. This hotel is the perfect ‘rest stop’ for just that—a relaxing experience by the Chicago River in a peaceful space.

Home is Where the (Heart) Hare is

Chicago - Interiors
coffee maker

iCoffee Opus

Moving four times has given me a unique perspective about packing up and moving to different neighborhood every so often. The neighborhoods have different flavors; each period of time has a distinct beginning and end. There was a different reason for each move and each period was a different period of growing. Three years is a relatively short time in a person’s life, but I am a very different person than I was—or maybe just more of myself.

In the first two apartments I lived alone—something I found very valuable but was unable to keep up. The third apartment was with roommates; too many roommates to tell the truth and the space was never clean enough for me.

Now I’m living with my sister, and it’s a happy medium, someone to split the bills with and who knows me.

Cleaning up and unpacking is the least fun aspect of moving. Packing is really no fun either. Both jobs seem to grow in size the longer you keep them up. Two weeks after the move we are 90% settled in. There are a few more books to put on shelves and a couple more pictures to hang, and the dining table has become a collection for all sorts of random items but we’re getting there.

living room

Logan Square Living

One of the first things to make me feel finally at ‘home’ was when I unpacked the coffee maker. The iCoffee maker is the perfect compromise for those who want to drink good quality coffee—but don’t always want to go through the trouble of getting out the Bialetti or the French press. The reusable pod means I get a good cup of coffee (whatever that means to me—in this case it’s Intelligentsia La Perla Oaxaca) with the convenience of a pod coffee maker.

My favorite thing about this coffee maker is actually not one of its functions though those are all good. It’s got a blue light that glows under the spout and in the water tank, so it looks like it belongs in another world, a space-ship coffee maker. The blue light is my favorite.

It’s made mornings in my new home very comfortable and for that I’m very grateful.

This post was sponsored by iCoffee; all thoughts and opinions are mine.