Saturday, December 15, 2012

What will YOU do on your last night on earth?

Around Bucktown:
Big Bite Catering

Last night at the Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce Christmas event held at The Southern, we got to mingle with neighbors and other neighborhood beings while being serenaded by the Wicker Park Choral Singers.



The food at the Southern takes a high-brow approach to various favorites you can find south of the Mason-Dixon line.  If you thought hush-puppies had no place at happy hour, you are OH so wrong.  As per usual, we got there early, redeemed our drink tickets and sought out a table to park it at so we didn't have to "mingle".  However a few people did find us (if for no other reason than the fact that they were probably eyeing the empty seats next to us)  Ipsento stopped by to school us on the importance of maintaining an internet presence (he's the "Baron" of like, 3 neighborhoods on yelp), as well as our neighbors from Big Bite Catering.  We spent most of the night chatting with them about such popular topics as wheat-farming techniques and Mexican beer. (I think it's safe to say Ray was the person most interested in the riveting wheat conversation).

If you're looking to take in some culture before the world ends on December 21, 2012 consider Collaboraction's "Our Last Night on Earth", if you have enough faith, buy a ticket for the last scheduled show, on December 22nd.  What will you do on the last night on earth?

Transit Tees Western Blue Line
If you wake up on the 22nd and you still exist...and you figured you didn't have to buy Christmas presents for your entire brood, not to worry!  You are not the sharpest tool in the shed but hey, there are still some great options.  If you are that uncle/aunt/grandmother/other random relative that prefers to gift ill-fitting clothing, buy an inappropriately sized shirt from Transit Tees.  They have CTA themed designs for any neighborhood or favorite bus line.

Around Chicago: 

Zoo Lights!  One of the most popular, and therefore stroller-heavy attractions of the Chicago holiday season.  It can be an incredible amount of fun if you just remember a few key points:





1. Do NOT try to drive there.  It's easily accessible by public transit, and if you're a novice parallel parker you will not thrive in the cut-throat Lincoln Park parking scene.
2.  Watch out for strollers, they pose a serious tripping-risk
3.  When in line to take pictures with "Edison" the Reindeer (his cousin Rudolph seems to have other engagements to attend), you must yield to the children cutting in line in front of you.  I KNOW  it's not fair but Lincoln Park mothers will do just about anything to keep their cubs happy.
4.  If you wear glasses, I would suggest taking them off for a few minutes, Christmas lights look exponentially cooler when fuzzy!  But put them back on before moving - again - the stroller issue.
5.  Make sure you check the hours of operation - it would be a huge disappointment to expect the Zoo Lights spectacle and only get...animals.
6. Enthusiasm is key  - see the visual aid from our most enthusiastic employee

Around Ray's:

Not much is going on around here, since it's the start of the winter season everyone is enjoying a chance to relax.  Well, except for the business owner of course, who would prefer we be manically busy year-round with no consideration for the mental well-being of his staff (who does most of the work)

Maggie's Rant: As usual, everyone bugs me, so just leave me the hell alone.

(The World Revolves...) Around Ray:

We think Ray's obsession with storage unit auctions is waning, answering all of our Christmas wishes, and he is even, just a little bit, getting into the Christmas Spirit - throwing a party on Christmas Day for a large group of friends.  Of course, this means we have to work extra long days on Christmas Eve and Christmas to help him get ready. So he's still pretty much Scrooge.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Holiday Arts Show and Santa Scaring Children...

Around Bucktown:

The Bucktown Holiday Arts Show is just around the corner, (in reference to both date and location!) December 8th & 9th at the Fieldhouse at Holstein Park.  There is a $2 charge but if you take the opinion that you just cannot shell out the dough to help out a local organization trying to foster the starving artist community then fine, you can download a free admission pass here.  While you're at it, here is a link to some outfits that might suit you, Sir Scrooge.

Once you dance past the admission cost, there will be over 100 artists waiting for you, after some internet stalking we like Steel Petal Press - check out the video on how she works over there ---->
Nothing shouts cool like a creative, tattooed young lady working with heavy machinery that have pet names.  And knows how to use Youtube.  Oh, and can make really cool stuff, which I'm sure is more important to her than the pet names...


Around Chicago:

Ice skating season is upon us, and Angie here at Ray's could not be more excited at the chance to break out her bedazzler and fashion herself a kick-ass sequined outfit in which to show off her smooth moves.  Here are a few places to keep an eye out for her:

Millenium Park - open seven days a week, but check for Holiday hours.
Daley Plaza - Even has a teen skating time-block, so if you skate after that make sure to dodge the gum
McFetridge - just another place to ice skate
Warren Park Rink - aaaand another one.

Need more rink suggestions? then stay home and flood your backyard.

If ice skating does not tickle your fancy, then try having your fancy tickled by Santa's beard at Breakfast with Santa.  Now better than ever - 90 minutes of pure Santa time and according to the John Hancock Observatory - you better "make like Prancer" and get your tickets soon.  Good for kids, and maybe even if they don't like it you can snap a picture of them on Santa's lap and submit it to the Tribune's "Scared of Santa" photo gallery.  (This entire paragraph may have been constructed to legitimize posting the photos below)





Around Ray's:

Even though the traditional farmer's market season is over we still get some of our favorite stuff at the Logan Square Indoor Farmer's Market at the Congress Theatre:

- We get out meat (Delicious Ham and Bacon to die for) from Jake's Country Meats. They are not only fantastically friendly, but produce a really great product, and really pave the way for our daily dose of morning meat over-consumption. (Anyone else familiar with the term "meat-sweats"? because we experience that phenomenon at least a few times a week) 


-Our eggs are from Tempel Farms Organics, organic and free range, these eggs are laid by mama hens that are probably more relaxed and healthy than any of OUR parents. They're good.  Check out the details on the eggs here.

Both sell at the summer market, and through other vendors at the indoor winter farmers market in Logan square (Dave the knife sharpening guy is our winter-time egg smuggler). 

Some other people to check out while you're at the winter market here.

Maggie's Rant: As usual, everyone bugs me, so just leave me the hell alone.

Calvin Update: Our outdoor cat Calvin has recently been given a nice warm home by a friend of the staff. 

(The World Revolves...) Around Ray:

Ray is doing nothing interesting other than taking cheap shots at our holiday decorating skills.  Apparently he does not understand that if we cannot get a Christmas tree we should at least be able to decorate our indoor rosemary bush with an excess of  tinsel. 




Thursday, November 15, 2012

Just get us to Thanksgiving

Around Bucktown:

Winter hibernation is close to setting in so here are a few of our places to hide out from the elements: They all happen to have beer...coincidentally.

The Map Room - A coffee shop / bar combo open from 630am every weekday (later on the weekends) with alcohol served starting at 11am.  Over 200 choices is always a sign of a good beer selection, AND they have FREE pretzel rods!...But no food.  Cash only, though there is an atm, and if you plan to hunker down for the afternoon they have almost every national geographic ever published.  Feel free to pretend you are reading and learning about far off lands and cultures when really you are just looking at big shiny pictures while sucking on your 15th free pretzel rod.  To top it all off?   It's about a 5 minute walk from Ray's

Floyd's - "Come for the food, stay and get drunk".  We have had guests discover Floyd's on their own, make new best friends at the bar, and then discover at breakfast their new buddies are guests at Ray's too!  Friendly vibe, and again, very close to Ray's

Quenchers - Like the Map Room: this is a great bar for beer lovers.  Not like the Map Room: there is the added benefit of food service and either live music or comedy almost every night.  Like the Map Room: they have pretzels.  Not like the Map Room: they are big soft pretzels and you have to pay for them. Like the Map Room: cash only.  Not like the Map Room: not sure if they have an atm (but there is a gas station right across the street).  If you want a true "Chicago" experience, try their $1 shots of Malort - available everyday.  You will regret it.

Red  Door - We've mentioned this place before but it's great: close, warm, good food, good cocktails, it's a solid neighborhood spot if a mixed drink is perhaps more up your alley than a draft beer with a german name you can't pronounce.

Around Chicago:

We are no strangers to winter weight, so why not start it off at the Chicago Fine Chocolate Show?
November 16-18th, general faqs and ticket information can be seen here.




It's crazy, but Thanksgiving is only a week away, so we are all getting excited for the food, the football, and of course the parade (subtly named the McDonald's Thanksgiving Day Parade...I wonder who sponsors it?).  If you want to catch a glimpse of Arthur, Mr. Potato Head, Curious George, the Gingerbread Man, Tom & Jerry, Mighty Mouse, and more then hop on the Blue Line straight from Ray's - you can get there easily....and escape easily.  Starts at 8am Thanksgiving morning.



Around Ray's:

So last year our plans for Halloween were foiled by poor planning, among other things, but this year we pulled through!  While Ray was dressing up as a nerdy tourist in Costa Rica his staff (from left to right) dressed up as:
 -a person who forgot it was halloween
 - Curious George
 - Darlene Connor (from "Roseanne")
 -and agent Dana Scully from the X-Files.
 We also had on hand mustached on a stick for those guests who wanted to get in the spirit.

Maggie's Rant: As usual, everyone bugs me, so just leave me the hell alone.

(The World Revolves...) Around Ray:

Gracing us with his presence for about a week, Ray is spending his time at storage unit auctions, thrifting with a vengeance, and trying to keep his entire staff from having a quarter life crisis all at the same time.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Our pumpkins wrinkle as Ray turns a year older

Around Bucktown: 



Although many consider Bucktown and the greater Wicker Park area to be "hipster-centric" catering to those who shun organized sports and appropriately fitting clothing in favor of skin-tight pants and surly-cool expressions, we do have a number of sports bars.  Add to the list Fat Pour Tap Works - which just moved into the neighborhood at Division and Damen.  Of course it is equipped with plenty of TVs, 50 beers on tap, and the nice surprise of a relatively "upscale" (for a sports bar) menu, as well as a healthy dose of attitude and humor.  They even know how to quote shakespeare! Favorite quote of the bar: "“For a quart of ale is a dish for a king” (from A Winter's Tale). Check out a more extensive reviews and information here and here.

Since the weather has been holding out, you may also consider taking a stroll around the neighborhood and check out the murals throughout Wicker Park and Bucktown that were commissioned by a local project.  Because we are not sure if we have permission to actually show pictures of the works of art you should really visit this site, get a map, and get moving!




Around Chicago:

Halloween is right around the corner, and though Ray is not present to enjoy our tributes to him through costume, there is still plenty of entertainment to enjoy around the city.  Chicago Traveler and the Pipeline have a list of activities to consider, Fat Pour is having their own Halloween Bash, Frankenplaza takes over Daley Plaza downtown, and Boo-Palooza is a good kid-friendly option for this weekend.

















Around Ray's:


Not everyone gets paid to carve pumpkins, but WE DO! These are pictures of our waste of time and Ray's payroll.  One pumpkin ended up as an unintentional ode to Colonel Sanders, and one was deemed "Kitty Stardust" due to her star-shaped eyes and cat ears.  Unfortunately we got so distracted by the roasted pumpkin seeds that we forgot to take pictures of the finished products...who fell victim to the neighborhood dogs pretty quickly.



Rocky's Ringside Ramble: Rocky will be dearly missed by Ray and the girls as he has passed away and is now in kitty heaven.  

Maggie's Rant: Of course, being the proud psycho cat, I am still going strong, but I do miss my companion - though I would never show it.  Instead I continue to demand tuna at all hours of the day and make it clear that I now own the entire B&B.

(The World Revolves ...) Around Ray:

Ray turned the ripe old age of I'm-not-allowed-to-say this week and we had a wonderful dinner at Rio's D'Sudamerica to celebrate- one of the best steaks in town in his opinion, as well as an extensive Peruvian-based menu.  It was a nice send-off to Ray, who once again, is in Central America for bird-watching.  At least now we won't have to keep track of whether he's a Green Bay or Bears fan depending on which bandwagon he jumps on every week. 









Friday, July 27, 2012

Red Door Delicious & Storage Auction Acquisitions...

Around Bucktown: 






Recently we attended a Bucktown/Wicker Park Chamber of Commerce event at Red Door - right down the street from us, and we had some DELICIOUS food and drinks, including some seriously impressive crab cakes, lobster deviled eggs and delicious cocktails.







Coffee Roasting at Ipsento Coffee Shop in Bucktown


While we were mingling, we ran into Ipsento, a local coffee shop and independent roaster.  Right around the corner from the B&B, it's super convenient to stop at on the way to the Blue Line El station, and they offer tastings every Friday at 11am, as well as occasional seminars and instructional classes. Octopus Gourmet gives a pretty good synopsis of the feel, as well as some photos of the space.  The menu includes several signature drinks, a good selection of teas, and they probably have a sandwich named after your favorite author.


With so much going on in the Neighborhood it feels like we are always out and about trying to stay involved.  Recently we donated a night's stay to benefit the upcoming Bucktown Arts Fest, and will be attending the Goat Party at Jackson Junge Gallery to see how the rest of the auction goes, as well as check out some other donations and neighborhood members.

If you're in town with kids, in addition to Holstein Park just around the corner, you may want to check out the Magic Boat Puppet Show being put on this summer in Wicker Park.

Around Chicago:


Festivals are still going strong! The upcoming Wicker Park Fest was dubbed the "best street festival of the summer" by the Chicago Tribune, and is this coming Saturday and Sunday (the 28th and 29th) on Milwaukee Ave from North to Paulina.  Admission is $5 and you'll definitely get your money's worth - free entry into a raffle, and 3 stages of music, as well as a plethora of vendors and food! Check out the musical lineup here.




Have kids?  Check out the Taste of Lincoln Ave Festival - also this weekend, with plenty of entertainment geared towards both adults (5 stages of live music) and kids (a complete children's carnival)

If you're a farmer's market fan, but are looking to branch out a bit, try the Polish Triangle Marketplace, near the Division Blue Line El - with goods from Spark of the Heart, SenTEAmental Moods, Stamper Cheese Company, and many more.  Thursdays from 3-7pm.

Around Ray's:


We survived the second pretty intense heat wave of the summer with grace - the Eagle's Nest's new auxiliary air conditioner is humming away ever-so-silently and we have finally mastered how to make the kitchen staff feel at least moderately comfortable while standing in front of a flaming hot grill for 4 hours a day - thanks to our new standing fan "Oscar the Oscillator".

Rocky's Ringside Ramble: I haven't seen my rival, Calvin, in a few days, he's probably pretty hot while i'm enjoying my spot in front the the kitchen A/C. Sucker

Maggie's Rant: As usual, everyone bugs me, so just leave me the hell alone.

(The World Revolves...) Around Ray:


As if if birding was not a big enough waste of time, Ray has developed a penchant for lurking around storage auctions, trying to strike it big.  He bought his first unit yesterday, and now we are knee deep in questionably hygienic stuffed animals, and proud owners of at least 3 obsolete cell phones.  Apart from those gems, everything else is pretty much crap...











Friday, July 6, 2012

Free Wine and Albino Howler Monkeys...

Around Bucktown:


     If you're looking for some local theater flavor, consider checking out Collaboraction; a Chicago-based arts organization currently running the Sketchbook festival - housed at the Flat Iron Arts Building, 1579 N. Milwaukee, just steps from the Damen Blue Line station.

   Red and White, a neighborhood wine shop, has free weekly wine tastings, so if you're on the way to the train and need an air conditioning break, consider stopping in!  Saturdays from 2-5pm (anyone who reads Food & Wine Magazine may recognize them from this article)

  Check out local bar The Mutiny for local music in a local dive bar here in the neighborhood...who knows, you may run into one of our guests watching their son perform!  What it lacks in charm it makes up for in cheap beer and live music most nights.


Around Chicago: 


    West Fest takes place this weekend, put on by the West Town chamber of commerce, and main stage music organized by renowned local music venue the Empty Bottle.  No cover bands at this festival!  It's all about the upcoming and original talent.  Headliners include the Black Lips and Mates of State.  West Fest also has a rare all-DJ stage.  For a full lineup of vendor and performers head on over to the official website.


    For more festivals taking place this weekend, head over the the Chicagoist for a more complete list.




Around Ray's B&B:


     It's HOT here in Chicago.  We tried frying an egg on the street outside, it was unsuccessful, making us think that the whole concept might be a ruse - if you can't fry an egg outside today it simply just cannot be done...
ever.  We have decided this picture must be fake.  However, Bill Nye the science guy, (personal hero to millions, and at least one Ray's employee), claims that it can be done, though it takes about 20 minutes.  Unfortunately our experiment was run over by a car approximately 12 minutes to soon to tell.


If you're considering staying with us in the hot summer months we DO have A/C throughout the house, but if you're extra sensitive to heat, try out one of our garden level rooms, the East or West room; they stay extra cool in the summer and extra cozy warm in the winter!

Rocky's Ringside Ramble (the good cat): It's hot. I'm really wishing I had a Polar Bear's coloring, instead of an ink blot's.
Maggie's Rant (the psycho cat):  As usual, everyone bugs me, so just leave me the hell alone.

 
(The World Revolves...) Around Ray:


   Safely returned from Costa Rica, Ray has come back tanned and accomplished, as one of the few lucky ducks to capture this rare albino howler monkey in the wild. He claims he's never seen a birding guide so excited.

    We celebrated his return / a Ray's employee birthday with a night out at Coast, our favorite sushi bar, only about 2 blocks from the B&B, so you can easily roll home after stuffing yourself to the max....which we most certainly did.  It's BYOB so it keeps the cost down, and the sushi is excellent! You could say that we are in a Coast rut, we should probably branch out for company outings but it's hard to tear ourselves away from such a solid choice.




 We're thinking outside the box for the next birthday. Maybe Whirlyball? Who can say no to a cross between lacrosse, hockey, and basketball, on bumper cars?



Friday, June 22, 2012

Bucktown Arcade Bar and Chicago's Green Music Fest

Summer is officially in full swing as of a few days ago, so start the season with a little info about what's going on around Ray's!

Around Bucktown:

Emporium Arcade Bar is a new, unique spot that boasts over 37 arcade and pinball games and of course does not foget the importance of stocking craft beers on tap, including one of our employee's personal favorites the Dogfish Head Raison D'etre (she hates raisins so this must be extra good, right?). Their full website isn't up quite yet but you can find some more info here.

Illumination is a photography exhibit running now through July 1st at the Jackson Junge Gallery.   The Gallery features local artists and is a great way to take home a piece of Chicago with you if you're just visiting the city.



Holstein Park is our neighborhood park here in Bucktown and they are celebrating their 100 year anniversary!  The festivities will take place on June 30th and will include 14 Chicago based food trucks, Goose Island beer and live music.



Around Chicago:


 The Chicago Pride Weekend takes place this starting weekend in the Boystown neighborhood, with the main parade event taking place on June 24th at noon, you can find more info and route information here. It can get a bit rowdy, but it's a fun tradition, and great for people watching!

Chicago Summerfest is one of many neighborhood festivals that take place all season long.  This one takes place right off of Lake Michigan in the Lincoln Park neighborhood (just east of the Bed and Breakfast), and boasts some of  the more popular 80s music acts on the regular Chicago festival circuit, Too White Crew, and 16 Candles. Of course you will also find an emphasis on local food, and a decently family friendly atmosphere.

Also taking place this weekend is the Green Music Fest, produced by our neighborhood chamber of commerce, and with a focus on green vendors and local artists. The entertainment has been undertaken by Subterranean, a well-known neighborhood music venue and you can view the lineup here.






Around Ray's: 


A lot of our guests have been out and about enjoying the warm weather and taking advantage of some summer entertainment options.  If you are looking for a unique way to tour the downtown / Millennium Park area consider a Segway tour.  While you definitely won't be whipping around at breakneck speeds on these, it's still a fun way to get your kids to look at architecture. (They also have a Fireworks Tour and Chicago Haunted Tour as well)

An update to our herb garden:  Mint is taking over the backyard, and our Morning Glories have reached the top of the fence!  All or our plates are sporting hefty and colorful garnishes, with nasturtium  flowers for all the ladies.


Rocky's Ringside Ramble (the good cat): Still enjoying some good lap time with guests, although I really do not like sharing the attention of the staff with our neighborhood cat Calvin,  I think he's trying to take over my territory, not cool.
Maggie's Rant (the psycho cat):  As usual, everyone bugs me, so just leave me the hell alone.


(The World Revolves...) Around Ray:


Even when Ray is thousands of miles away he still likes to keep tabs on us here at the B&B.  We are saving a phone message he attempted to leave entirely in Spanish for future embarrassing blackmailing purposes, but as always, we are excited to see him come home, and hoping that he brought the staff presents!  So far we are guessing he has added at least a dozen or two new species to his birding "life list", and last we heard he was heading off for some mysterious adventure, either in a Jeep or an airplane, or a boat, who knows.  




Maybe he's seen one of these Resplendent Quetzels - only found in a handful of Central American countries. We could always use a pet bird!



Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Starting off Summer with Bucktown & Chicago Events

Welcome to our first blog!  Area happenings, favorite neighborhood places, and a little about Ray's of course!


Around Bucktown: Some places in the area that we recommend.


Gallery Caberet - Open mic night Thursday - Live music every night
Cage Laguardia -  Live music on Tuesday & Wednesday
Rio D'Sudioamerica - Live music Saturday nights
Farmers Markets - Several Chicago neighborhoods have weekly farmers markets
Movies in the Parks - Free outdoor screenings of a selection of movies in Chicago's neighborhood parks throughout the summer, including Holstein Park - less than a block away from the B&B
Guerilla Tango Theatre - unique and entertaining burlesque, sketch comedy and musical productions, such as Attend the Tale of Danny Tanner: A Full House Musical - featuring a relative of one of our guests!
Takashi Restaurant - Sunday noodle deal
Bucktown Garden Walk - an annual walk on July 14-15 from 11am-5pm
Birchwood Kitchen - Recently named one of the Top Spots for Chicago Brunches




Around Chicago:


Two of our guests "Biked the Drive" recently.  Even with temperatures rising to a record 95 they seemed to survive their 29 miles.  Once a year Chicago closes down Lake Shore Drive and allows people to ride their bicycles on this beautiful drive that runs about 26 miles along mostly the whole city limits of Chicago

Memorial Day Weekend kicks off the summer season for Chicago, with farmers markets every week, and special events and festivals almost every weekend.  Some of our summertime favorites are free music at the Pritzker Pavillion, both Mondays and Thursdays, with Thursdays featuring World Music.

Upcoming special events include Ribfest (June 8-10), Taste of Chicago (July 11-15), Pitchfork Festival (July 13-15), Lollapalooza (August 3-5), and of course the amazing Bucktown Arts Fest (August 25-26)

Around Ray's B&B:
Today four of our guests took one of  the Architectural Foundation's River Boat Tours; guests also like to explore Oak Park's Frank Lloyd Wright district rounding out two of our guests' favorite activities (being beat out only by visiting with kids or grandkids in the neighborhood).

Ray finally replaced all remaining non-HDTVs with large flat screen HDTVs.  We also switched over our cable service to one with amazing free On-Demand (hundreds of movies, TV shows, etc).  We appreciate that they promise a two-hour window for their tech and nailed it (actually called to ask if they could come early) - gotta love the fact that at least one company....

Our herb garden is coming in nicely, complete with mint, basil, lemon balm, flowering garlic chives, cat mint, and roses, (ok not an herb, but edible) for garnish on our breakfast plates.

Rocky's Ringside Ramble (the good cat): I am getting my usual great lap time with guests in the community area and I am enjoying the new window that connects the two wings what looks down Webster Ave.  Nice place to get both morning and afternoon sun.
Maggie's Rant (the psycho cat):  As usual, everyone bugs me, so just leave me the hell alone.

(The World Revolves....) Around Ray: 
Having enjoyed by "Big Month"* of birding in Peru last year, I am excited about my excursion to Costa Rica's central section Parque del Questral and Chippo.  I want to also go back to the Mountverde area for the Mountverde National Park and Santamaria National Park, and to Paque de Carare as last time I was in Costa Rica all three of theses national parks had amazing birding!  Luckily for me I have a great staff, that handles things flawlessly while I am gone.  Also luckily for me, I can get texts and emails even in remote amazonian jungle lodges (sometimes just for a few hours while their generators are running but still...).