Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Amanda + Andrew: Chicago Henna

In early October, I headed to Chicago for the first time to celebrate Amanda and Andrew's traditional Iraqi Henna.  Usually this would be done the week of the wedding, but it was fun to spread out the festivities and meet family as well as the (extensive) wedding party.  

Note: there was a professional photographer at the Henna, and most of the pictures here from the party have been plucked from her blog.  If it looks like it wasn't taken on an iPhone, you're right.  Check hers out here!

Amanda's been in Chicago for more than five years and I have shamefully never been out to visit.  This was an epic occasion to remedy that!  They hosted a welcome dinner for those of us that came into town early, and I finally got to meet Milo the dog!  Check out all the awesome furniture Andrew has created (hint: if it looks unique and one-of-a-kind, he made it, from the bookshelves to the tables to the light fixtures!).

They have a history of similar poses...

circa 2005

Friday, Amanda went wedding dress shopping, and Andrew accompanied us to brunch at Handlebar, where he told us about his side of the wedding party.  We lucked out and he ended up spending the entire day with us, thrift shopping for 90s windbreakers, introducing us to snakes at the pet store, and eating fancy donuts.  We had so much fun!  My favorite quote of the day was from a girl at the thrift store that was experiencing Halloween costume buyer's remorse: "I could've been a hot dog!"  You know, sometimes we look back on life, and realize we didn't become all we had hoped.

That evening, we convened with the rest of the group for an architecture boat tour of the city.  I learned so much about the different buildings and the history of the city.  I also learned a thing or two about the weather-it was so chilly when the sun dropped!  I really got a dose of the fall weather I had been hoping for.

Saturday was Henna + Wedding Shower day!  We had a lazy morning of prep, and between hair, makeup, henna, and picking galabayas to wear, it was quite the festivity of its own.  Amanda's henna was awesomely intricate, and the artist even sneaked Andrew's name into the design.

It was so fun to get dressed up for this event and to experience the traditions of Andrew's family!  We started with just women for the wedding shower, and when the men arrived, we danced around them as a welcome.  Andrew had found a traditional Iraqi band to surprise his family with, and his dad even recognized one of the musicians from back home.  Amanda and Andrew danced with their family members and each other, encircled by the entire party.  Andrew was raising the roof with his sword; the drummer was hamming it up and building the energy; the couple and their moms, in turn, were lifted onto shoulders, as high as everyone's spirits.  The moment was so charged with love and joy that many of us had tears in our eyes!

The dresses were so comfortable, and roomy!  I think I can speak for all the ladies when I say we didn't have to worry about enjoying the delicious vegetarian feast that day.  Here are the bridesmaids that were able to make it to the Henna (we're missing a couple from the full party!):

The Henna was an incredible cultural experience elevated by the fact that we knew and loved the reason for the celebration: Amanda and Andrew!  They put together such an incredible party, and it was an honor to be a part of it.

Later that night, we reconvened in the back room of Theory for (more) food, drinks, and dancing!  Usually at a wedding, you meet so many great people that are close to the bride and groom, and then you don't really get to see them again.  This was an awesome introduction to the crew, and I look forward to spending another epic weekend with them at the wedding in May!

Sunday was dedicated to sightseeing.  I got to see the Bean, which has to be one of the most photographed sites in the country.  Here's a couple more for good measure. 

That day I also went to the Art Institute, took the "L", and finally ended up at Second City, which is an improv comedy troupe that feeds countless comedians into Saturday Night Live.  During the show, four of us girls decided to volunteer to go on stage and play Family Feud against the comedians.  Our most challenging category was "things people put on a cracker."  I aggressively won first choice by hitting the bell and shouting "cheese"-no mic necessary.  We then struggled to think of anything else people would want to eat on a cracker (pretty sure it was rigged).  Brittany got super excited about "tuna", but we just got heckled for selecting "depression-era snacks".  It was such a crack-up, and a lot of people patted us on the back on the way out for making them laugh.   We won the game in the end, and went home with Second City gift bags.  Later that night, Andrew joined us for dinner at Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co. which is famous for its upside down pizzas (they fill a bowl with toppings and sauce, cover it with dough like a pie, bake it, and then flip it onto your plate!). 

It was extra hard to leave, since I got to celebrate such a joyous, unique occasion and explore a lovely new city with some of my best friends that live all too far away.  Lucky for me, I had a reminder of our wonderful weekend tattooed on my hand for the foreseeable future!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Yes, Please: Bodrum

Ok, it's been a month and a half since I got back from this trip and I still haven't finished blogging about it.  I like to think it's because I enjoy prolonging the memories, like people who celebrate their "birthday month", but really I'm just caught up in other stuff including watching Netflix, which is very important.

The weather is turning to fall, and the idea of lounging bikini-clad at a Mediterranean resort with an ice bucket of beer at arm's reach sounds SO last summer.

We actually stayed a little outside of Bodrum, in a town called Ortakent, where we had the pleasure of meeting more of Gio's family, including her aunt, uncle, and cousins.  We were all staying in an apartment complex they negotiated for an amazing deal: 2-bedroom apartments for $50/night.  Absolutely crazy.

We walked down to the beach at some point every day, taking in the sun and the salt, using our dorky goggles to chase fish, and drinking Efes.

But we weren't beach bums the entire time!  One day we went to the market in Yalikavak which has both a produce and a goods section.  We spent most of our time ruminating over which Turkish towels to invest in-they were only about $7 each, but space in our luggage was becoming more and more of a concern each day!

May have finally found a fan big enough to keep B cool!

I think I pull these off quite well.

We enjoyed so many meals together with the family.  Gio's aunt is famous for her breakfasts, which always included several cheeses, tomato and cucumbers, fresh herbs, su borek-a layered pastry dish, fresh breads from the bakery, olives, eggs and sausage and more.

One day we saw the women that run the residence kitchen rolling pasta dough, and so we planned to sit down to a lunch of manti, Turkish ravioli with yogurt sauce.  It was delicious!

The best night was when we out in Bodrum.  The "young people" went to Vittoria, where Gio's cousin Ozzy had a connection to someone who had a connection to someone who owns a Turkish restaurant in the south bay.  As that makes you practically brothers, we were well taken care of!

Later on, just the four of us remained to go to Halikarnas megaclub.  We knew it was both late in the night and in the season, but it was still fun to explore the club, dance it up, and observe the people. 

 We got photobombed by a terrorist.
Oh wait.  That's just our friend Shawn.

Brittany discovered a mirrored cube that we made our private dancing studio.  Not long after, a club employee came up to us.  Thinking we were in trouble, we jumped out and apologized, but he just turned on the floor fan and bid us a good time!  Here we girls are enjoying being go-go Marilyns for the night:

The next day we spent some time in Bodrum, exploring the castle and finishing up some shopping.

Learning a new scarf-tying technique

For our final evening together in Turkey, we wanted to take Gio's family out to a nice seafood dinner to thank them for their hospitality.  It was a perfect summer evening and the sun was setting as we ate on the edge of the water.

Ozge taught me to eat fried fish right off the spine!

Some of us were really excited about the fish...

...and others, less so.


It was hard to say goodbye to friends and vacation, but Brittany and I felt we had had a solid rest and were ready to be back home!  Here's one final picture of the gang:


That's all, folks!  Kelly out.