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Just like us, Meg lives in Chicago (Logan Square, too!) and writes about crafts, home, DIY and, in her words, sh*t that anyone can do (and we appreciate that). You can find her at Radical Possibility, but really, you should start with her recent side table makeover. Ahh-mazing.

I have many friends who live outside of Chicago who regularly say that, while they love to visit, they could just never live here (The weather! The politics! The smell of the trains!). And while they are kind of right about that last one, it’s okay if you don’t love it here. I’m sure your city is great, too. The thing is, Chicago, in the words of that guy from Love Actually, to me – you are perfect.

Chicago, I love you in the morning … Whether that morning is the kind where I don’t take my sunglasses off at a brunch consisting of only Longman & Eagle‘s Bloody Larry, or the kind of morning where I get my act together and do grown-up things like actually make it to the farmer’s market on time, I love you all the same.

… And in the afternoon … I love that we are at the point in the relationship where we can just lay in Palmer Square people-watching together, or stroll through the lush greenery of the Garfield Park Conservatory, and we don’t even have to talk. We’re just so comfortable together, I feel like you get me. Plus, every time I let you pick which beach we go to, you choose Montrose because they allow Lucille Austero to be off her leash there. It means a lot to me, how much you love animals.

I love you in the evening … When you are the perfect date. You open the door for me (okay, you technically do that for everyone else on the train too, because its an automatic function, but chivalry is chivalry). You let me pick the restaurant, and don’t put up a fight when I choose Chicago Diner again because I really love the vegan gyro. And when it comes time to the movie portion of our evening, I get to choose between Kubrick at Doc Films, art house flicks at Music Box, or a midnight showing of The Goonies at The Logan Theatre.

… And underneath the moon … Sure, you lay claim to Ferris Bueller, world class public art, and some of the best thrifting ever, but curled up on my couch with my family in my tiny, cheap apartment, Chicago, is when I love you most.

Thank you, Meg! You and us; we share the same love for Chicago. See more over at Radical Possibility.

  • Hannah K - July 25, 2013 - 8:28 AM

    I’m dying to come check out Chicago — the only time I have been there was in 2011 (I think), in FEBRUARY right after you have a crazy snow storm…good planning Hannah. Needless to say, I’d love to come check it out again. We’re thinking September or October! Thanks for the tips…this gives us a good starting place for our plans!

    Also, loving the Elephant Show references!!ReplyCancel

  • ashley @ - July 25, 2013 - 9:06 AM

    i <3 chicago too – don't forget summer festivals, amazing local bands, thrift stores galore and trendy shopping to curb any appetite. ;)ReplyCancel

  • Amber - July 25, 2013 - 9:53 AM

    I’ve lived in Chicago (Lakeview/Roscoe Village) for 5 years now and love it! I also grew up in in Cincy but always wanted to live here, and can’t imagine living anywhere else [maybe Cali, but something (a job) would have to force me out there]. Before I moved to Chicago, I would dream about all these places I would like to visit but now that I’m in Chicago, I feel so content and have become such a homebody. But in this case Chicago is the home and I don’t care to leave it.ReplyCancel

  • Ashley - July 25, 2013 - 11:41 AM

    Oh, I just found an awesome new blog. And starting pining to visit Chicago again. Sigh.ReplyCancel

  • Asia - July 25, 2013 - 12:44 PM

    That dog is all sorts of cute!ReplyCancel


Hailing from Brooklyn, Jodi is one of those girls that I was lucky enough to meet in person through the big, bad blogosphere. (A quick email exchange, and a noon lunch date was in the works!) After a too-short lunch, I confirmed that, yes – yes, she’s awesome. You can find Jodi on her blog, but may we suggest following her on Pinterest? She’s the pinning queen, hands down.

Hi YBH readers! My name is Jodi and I live in Brooklyn, NY and absolutely love it. While I wish my family & I lived in a more happening &/or photogenic neighborhood like Park Slope, Williamsburg, Greenpoint, DUMBO or Brooklyn Heights, we do enjoy the quietness of our neighborhood, Bay Ridge. We’re close to the water and the park, and have a pharmacy, grocery store, several pubs, a subway stop, Starbucks and a cupcake shop all within walking distance. I think that is pretty great.

We moved to NYC seven and half years ago and have been living in Bay Ridge for the past two and half. We’re on our third NYC apartment and this one finally feels like home. It helps that this is the place that we brought our baby daughter home to for the first time and that we actually have a little bit of space to spread out in. And now that our little girl is a year and half old, we have so many new memories connected to this place.

Aside from enjoying our immediate neighborhood, I love to visit other parts of Brooklyn. One of my favorite spots is Brooklyn Bridge Park in DUMBO. I love the views of the bridges, lower Manhattan, and the amazing Jane’s Carousel. Another favorite is the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. It’s great year round, but I absolutely adore it during cherry blossom season. I also love to spend an afternoon in Williamsburg, especially when Smorgasburg is open. And hipster people watching? Pretty excellent.

I know we won’t live in NYC forever; it’s just so expensive here and my husband is getting antsy to move on. As we discuss where to move next though, I am constantly looking for neighborhoods in other cities that are truly walkable. I know we’ll have to get a car where ever we live next, but for now, I am thoroughly enjoying walking everywhere and taking the subway daily. I love to get lost in a good book on my commute to and from work and if I’m not in the mood to read, the people watching, as always, is fantastic.

Thanks to Kim & Scott for having me while they move to their new place. Once you get settled in, come out and visit, m’kay?

Thank you, Jodi! We’ll gladly take you up on the visit. (And if you’re craving your own little slice of NYC, you can find her right here!)

  • Jodi - July 24, 2013 - 2:36 PM

    thanks so much for having me guys! hope the move is going well. :)ReplyCancel


Rob is our younger brother (well, Scott’s brother) and a chef in Kalamazoo, Michigan. We crave his food (it’s the world’s greatest, FYI), so it’s only a bummer that he doesn’t live in Chicago with us – you know, to cook us dinner every night. Luckily, he’s sharing some of his top tips (using local ingredients) that’ll have you cooking yummy feasts in no time.

My name is Rob, and I live in Kalamazoo, Michigan with my lovely wife, Maurietta, and our wonderful 3-month-old boy, Max. We relocated here in late summer of 2012 and were immediately smitten with everything that the city has to offer. We’re surrounded by friendly people, a vibrant downtown, beautiful scenery, ski resorts, lakes, vineyards, farms, a great local music & art scene, and most importantly (to me anyway), a rather large number of craft breweries. So of course, we were thrilled by the chance to share our little town with all of the YBH readers out there.

We recently had some good friends come to visit for a weekend, and we took the opportunity to show them some of the local flavor: farmer’s market in the morning to buy ingredients for dinner, brewery for lunch, record store, dinner & drinks, in that order. Prior to our guests arriving in town, I stopped at my favorite bottle shop for a pick-six of Michigan beer. More on that later.

Kalamazoo Coffee Company’s dark roast, a Saturday morning necessity in our house, was the perfect starter before heading to the amazing Bank Street Farmer’s Market in downtown K-zoo. Going to a farmer’s market in early summer is just awesome. You’ve got a huge amount of options: spring produce that is still being harvested, early summer fruits & veggies that are just arriving, and a good lively atmosphere from all of the folks out just enjoying the weather. Upon arrival, we were greeted by live music, and a farmer right at the entrance selling some freshly picked strawberries that we couldn’t pass up.

Working our way through the aisles, we decided on some fantastic locally harvested ingredients: shiitake & oyster mushrooms, asparagus, fresh herbs, cippolini onions (that’s Italian for, um, small onion), baby eggplant, boneless-skinless chicken thigh, and an awesome loaf of parmesan-gruyere sourdough from a local bakery. I also used some pearl barley & cheap white wine that I had in the pantry. We stopped for lunch and a brew (or two, maybe) at Bell’s Eccentric Café, and then it was time to head home and turn all of these beautiful ingredients into dinner.

We turned all of this into a sort of stir-fried barley concoction that was not too rich, had nice crunch and texture from the barley and different vegetables, and featured a fine dose of bright, fresh herbs. It wasn’t weighed down with a heavy sauce – the wine just helped to bring all of the flavors together at the end.  Everyone seemed pretty pleased with how it turned out, although some would have preferred it without mushrooms…but the good thing about this kind of dish is that you can add or take away whatever you want! Tomatoes would have added some extra zip, if that’s what you’re after. Broccoli works with just about anything, so that would be fine as well. It could also be vegetarian- leave out the chicken and add more mushrooms, or some black beans. Use your imagination, and don’t be afraid to experiment.

THE BEER: For this meal, I decided to go with a few fine examples of Michigan-brewed Belgian-style ales (side note: Dark Horse Brewing Company’s summer brew is a Belgian Trippel that clocks in at 9.5% abv, so handle with care).

I’ve found when matching beers with food, it’s best to use flavors that complement each other. This is fairly easy with Belgian ales- most of them are quite complex, and have a wide array of flavors so that they match well with a lot of foods. The spicy/peppery/tart/fruity notes provide a balance for the earthy mushrooms & eggplant, and the sweet malt & mild, floral hops highlighted the fresh herbs. The barley tied the whole thing together, providing a good backdrop for both the vegetables and the beer.

I had planned to provide the recipe for the dish we whipped up, but then I got to thinking- it’s not about a recipe. The idea is to go out and choose what looks good to you at the time- use that to make something that you & your friends have never tried before. When you’ve got good friends, food, drink, and an open mind, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a good experience. So, instead of a recipe, here are a few tips & techniques that you can apply to any recipe, so that you can relax, worry less about measurements, and focus more on enjoying your company:

Some items can be cooked & chilled ahead of time. This is helpful for anything that takes more than a couple of minutes to cook, like chicken & barley. It will also speed up the final cooking process and prevent other ingredients from becoming overcooked.

Blanch & shock the asparagus. Cut it up and drop it into boiling water for 3 to 4 minutes, drain it, cool it fast by dunking it into some ice water, then drain again.  This step will help keep it bright green & tasty.  This also works with green beans & broccoli.

Heat control is one of the most important cooking skills to master. When you’re sautéing or stir-frying, keep the heat around medium-high, and give the pan plenty of time to get hot. If it’s too low, the water that is released from the vegetables won’t evaporate; it will just simmer, and steam everything which will make it mushy. If the heat is too high, things will burn. It’s also good to add ingredients to the pan gradually- each addition causes the cooking temperature to drop, and pausing in between gives the pan time to heat up again.

Add ingredients in order of cook time. Items that take longer to cook should be added earlier in the process. I added the onions first, because I wanted to get some good caramelization. Mushrooms came next, followed by eggplant, blanched asparagus, chicken, barley, and then the herbs.

It isn’t necessary to add a lot of salt, but it helps to add a tiny pinch each time you introduce a new ingredient to the pan. This will highlight the natural flavors of the ingredients, and build layers of flavor, without actually making the dish salty.

Add herbs last to keep the flavors bright and fresh. They don’t really need to be cooked, just warmed a bit.

Fresh herbs will take anything you make to the next level. Try some fresh cilantro on your curry, tarragon in your chicken salad. Add some sweet basil to an Asian stir-fry to give it a Thai twist. Go wild!

If you have a sweet tooth when the meal is over… Go ahead and drink your dessert (but only if you aren’t planning to drive anywhere)!

Hopefully, you can use some of the tips for your next kitchen adventure. Of course, you don’t have to be in Michigan to do any of this! There is at least one farmer’s market in every city these days, and new breweries are opening up as fast as the demand is rising. That’s pretty great in my book!

Thanks to Kim & Scott for the opportunity to share Kalamazoo with the Yellow Brick home crowd! Cheers!

Thank you, Rob, Maurietta and baby Max! Now, who’s hungry?

  • Anne @ Planting Sequoias - July 24, 2013 - 7:55 AM

    Michigan beer is the best (Grand Rapids local here–I’m a bit biased, I’ll admit). I just recently went to the Eccentric Cafe after a tour of Bell’s brewery and it was phenomenal.ReplyCancel

  • Jillian - July 24, 2013 - 8:32 AM

    I grew up singing “We don’t give a damn about the whole state of Michigan cause we’re from Ohio”… what a horrible but funny song, Ohio State. Anyways, I need to visit that place for reals (only been once to visit Eric’s sis while she was in school at Kettering in Flint). p.s. I kept hearing Rob read me his own post. Scott, I love your family. ;)ReplyCancel

  • Emily R. - July 24, 2013 - 11:45 AM

    I spent the first 24 years of my life in southeast Michigan, but didn’t see nearly as much of Kalamazoo or the west side of the state as I wish I had before I moved to Tennessee. I’ve got this post bookmarked for future travels, though – my husband spent most of his life near Memphis and I need to get him up there to see the sights!ReplyCancel

  • Cristina - July 25, 2013 - 9:40 AM

    I live in Kalamazoo, and I so appreciate your support for our lovely town Yellow Brick Home!

    If he doesn’t mind sharing, where does Rob work? In addition to the art, music, and beer scene, we LOVE the food in Kalamazoo. I would love to make sure to provide him some community support (if we aren’t already!).

    Thanks again!ReplyCancel

  • Dave - July 25, 2013 - 6:20 PM

    K-Zoo is one of the coolest small towns in America. Rob, nice job showcasing your wonderful city.ReplyCancel