Paris

As I mentioned in my Iceland post, I LOVE planning trips. Last May, Josh and I went on a 13-day trip to Iceland, Paris, and Nice. 

After 6 days in cold, wet, and windy Iceland, we were MORE than ready to get into sunny and warm France. Plus – anyone who knows me knows I’m OBSESSED with Paris and that it’s probably my favorite city in the entire world. Needless to say, I was beaming the second we got off the plane at Charles de Gaulle International Airport. 

I’ve been to Paris quite a few times now, so check out my tips and tricks, by Parisian arrondissement, below. Heads up: it’s another lengthy one so brace yourself.

 

Best places to stay:

  • We stayed all the way out at the Hyatt Regency Paris Etoile and it wasn’t a problem at all. We would walk toward l’Arc de Triomphe and hop on the metro from there. If you don’t do the hop on-hop off red bus tours, you’ll use the metro a lot.
  • Anywhere near l’Eglise de la Madeleine is going to be really nice and pretty expensive.
  • Stick near la Seine. I’d say 8, 7, 2, 5 ish would be your best bet to be near the most attractions and museums if you’re a first time visitor.

Must-see things to do:

  • 1st ARR:
    • The Louvre (La Louvre) – no need to go in and walk around because it would take you weeks (seriously) to see everything good. Take a peek with the pyramid out front and call it a day. Louvre
    • Musee d’Orsay – In my opinion, if you’re going to actually walk around a museum, this is the one to go to. It’s filled with Degas ballet dancers and other famous Frenchie artists. I remember really liking this one but haven’t been since I studied abroad in college.
  • 2nd ARR:
    • Les Halles – I’m pretty sure this is a mall? I’ve never been. Not important enough IMO.
  • 3rd ARR:
    • Skip this area or see it on the hop on-hop off tour
  • 4th ARR:
    • Ile de la Cite & Ile Saint-Louis
      • Ile de la Cite has Notre Dame and Pont Neuf. Really cool to see via boat tour, but definitely worth seeing up close. IF you have time and if you feel like throwing down at least 20 euros a piece, go to the top of the Notre Dame – great view of the city, if not the best. IMG_0159
    • 5th ARR [aka le Quartier Latin]
      • Trendy home of la Sorbonne (bougie college) and has lots of good cafes and shops. Good for people watching too.
    • 6th ARR:
      • Le Jardin du Luxembourg. Lots of walking but lots of benches, too. Ponds, fountains, flowers, etc. Grab yourself a jambon et fromage sandwich and post up on a bench for the afternoon to soak it all in.
      • Le Palais du Luxembourg. I think you have to pay, but it’s pretty cool. If you don’t take a day trip to see the castles, this is your next best thing.
    • 7th ARR:
      • Les Invalides. Pretty sure you drive past this on the hop on hop off. Nothing that you need to get off to see up close.
      • Musee Rodin. I went here but I can’t remember much about it. Apparently The Thinker is here…?
    • 8th ARR:
      • L’arc de Triomphe. Take the time to actually walk under the street to pop up under the arch because the walls have pretty cool pictures engraved in them. Plus, this is the beginning of the Champs Elysee and at the other end of the street (la rue) you can see La Place de la Concorde, which is this tall obelisk thing in the Jardins du Tuileries et Jardin des Champs Elysee. If you feel like walking a lot, you can walk the entire Champs Elysee all the way to the Louvre. I don’t recommend doing it because it’s farther than it looks and most of the paths are gravely. Under Arc de Triomphe
    • 9th/18th (Not sure which one they’re in technically):
      • Take the metro or hop on-hop off up here because it’s far.
      • Moulin Rouge isn’t in the best area and is actually on a street well known for having a bunch of X-rated shops, but it’s cool to see. Go, take a pic of it, then walk north toward the cutesy area of Montmatre.Moulin Rouge
      • Walk around the pedestrian area of Montmatre. Lots of touristy type shops to get some souvenirs. Fun fact: this is where Josh bought me the umbrella before he proposed because he knew I’d be upset if I had wet hair in the proposal pics… He wasn’t wrong.
      • Sacre-Coeur Basilica. My favorite favorite favorite place in Paris and you’ll see why. Breathe before taking the stairs because there are a lot of them. Go all the way up, turn around, and then take it in.  Awesome view of the city and the church is seriously stunning.
        • If you’ve gotten this far, 1) nice work, 2) thank you! and 3) it’s story time. On our second day in Paris (day 7 overall), we woke up to what I was assuming was going to be a normal day. Looking back, there were quite a few things that should have tipped me off, but I hadn’t had coffee yet so cut me some slack. Should-have-been-a-giveaway #1: Josh was the one telling ME to hurry up. Should-have-been-a-giveaway #2: He said he’d help pick out my outfit while I was doing my hair and strategically chose my white Madewell dress. Should-have-been-a-giveaway #3: He kept checking his phone and texting someone, although I just assumed he was texting his friends since he made sure he had cell service while we were abroad. Anywho, I knew we were going to le Sacre Coeur and Montmartre because we had talked about it the night before. After we had gotten to the top of the mountain of stairs, I turned and started left to go toward the entrance of the church. Josh pulled me to the right, toward the other side of the church. I turned and pointed left toward the entrance and by the time I turned back around to check on Josh, he was down on one knee saying, “Yes, this is happening” before asking me to marry him. So, that’s how it happened. Thanks for listening to story time. Back to the rest of Paris…Proposal_Sacre CoeurIMG_0028
    • 10th ARR:
      • Your hop on-hop off bus should take you past la Gare du Nord (North train station) and la Gare de l’Est (train station of the East). They’re right next to each other which is super weird, but your tour guide will tell you all about it.
    • 16th ARR:
      • La Tour Eiffel (basically the only notable thing to see in the 16th)
        • No need to go to the top. First of all, you have to climb stairs to get to the halfway point, which is exhausting. Then, you have to pay an additional fee to take the elevator up to the top. If you’re pressed for time, don’t climb the stairs. If you have more than a couple of days in the city, do it. You’ll have great panoramic views.
        • For an awesome picture of la Tour Eiffel, get dropped off at les Jardins du Trocadero – perfect unobstructed view of the tower from across la Seine.
        • The Champs de Mars is a good place to plop and rest your feet. Also, it’s a good place to sit and watch the tower twinkle at night – it lights up every hour, on the hour starting at sunset.

 

Places to eat:                                                               

  • Le Hide. 2 blocks away from l’arc de Triomphe. It’s super small and you NEED a reservation. They speak English so you can call and make a rez. Can’t recommend more, you guys. The stew is to die for and you MUST get it… I mean look at this and try not to drool.
  • La Duree for macarons because #obviously
  • Brasseries are basically cafes/sandwiches/cheese plates/wine. Stop at these, grab a charcuterie board and a glass of rose and then sit outside facing the streets to people watch.

Where to shop:

  • Galleries Lafayette is basically their Nordstrom on steroids. Printemps is another good one.
  • Naf Naf is kind of a Forever 21.
  • Carrefour is their Wal-Mart and is one of the largest retailers in Europe. I believe there are some city Carrefours if you need something in a pinch.
  • FNACs are like Best Buys sort of? Lots of techie things.
  • Check out the Louis Vuitton store on the Champs-Elysee. You may have to wait in line to get inside, but it’s part of the experience.

Doable day trip options:

  • Versailles – Pretty sure this is a 45 min (if that) TGV ride from one of the gares in Paris. Big old castle that’s pretty neat. UNESCO World Heritage site. Castle and gardens.
  • Loire Valley. Home of Chambord, Chenonceau, and Amboise castles. This is where I studied abroad. All of these castles are really cool, but my fave was Chenonceau because I’m pretty sure we rented row boats and got to go under the castle’s arches. Also, it has a cool garden.
    • I THINK there are tours where you can hop from castle to castle, but this would take up a solid day of your trip. They’re cool to see, but I wouldn’t make this first priority. This would be a good 2nd trip to Paris option.

Words and phrases to know and their pronunciations:

  • Gare: train station
    • Pronounce like car with a hard G
  • Excusez-moi, mais ou sont les toilets?: Excuse me, where are the toilets?
    • Ex-sku-say-mwah, may ooo sohn lez twa-lets
  • Pont: bridge
    • Poh
  • S’il vous plait: please
    • Sea voo play
  • Bonjour: hello
    • Bohn-zjohr
  • Oui: yes
    • We
  • Non: no
    • Noh
  • Parlez-vous anglais?: Do you speak English?
    • Par-lay voo ah-glay
  • L’addition, s’il vous plait: The check, please
    • La dees-y-ohn sea voo play
  • Merci beaucoup: Thank you very much
    • Mare-see boo-coo
  • Je ne peux pas manger les cacahuetes: I can’t eat peanuts
    • Zje nuh puh pah mah-zjay lay cah-cah-hoo-ettes
    • This one was for my bestie, who traveled to Paris for her babymoon!

 

I know this is a lot, but I hope you find it helpful if and WHEN you visit Paris. If you have any favorite spots, please let me know so I can check them out the next time I’m there. Also, if you’re going to visit Paris soon, let me know!! I’d love to chit chat and tell you more about the best places to go in and around the city. Either way, I want to hear from you! 

July 2019

JULY:  A patriotic month filled with hotter than heck days, bonfire-smelling hair, and some of the best new music of the year. As you’re nomming on your s’mores or trying to consume your bombpops before they melt all over your arm, relax and enjoy this month’s playlist – made especially for you.

Here are your hits for July:

  • Don’t You Worry (feat. Jenny Mayhem) – ayokay
  • Only Human – Jonas Brothers
  • Just Us (feat. SZA) – DJ Khaled
  • Ritual – Tiesto, Jonas Blue & Rita Ora
  • Stay (Don’t Go Away) (feat. Raye) – David Guetta
  • Catch & Release (Deepend Remix) – Matt Simons
  • A Brand New Day – BTS & Zara Larsson
  • Heaven – Avicii
  • Right Where I Belong – Ashley O [AKA Miley Cyrus]
  • Another Place – Bastille
  • Bruised Not Broken (feat. MNEK & Kiana Lede) – Matoma
  • With You – Kaskade & Meghan Trainor [I usually don’t like MT songs, but this one’s good!]
  • Hold The Line (feat. A R I Z O N A) – Avicii
  • Heart Upon My Sleeve – Avicii & Imagine Dragons
  • Senorita – Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello
  • One Thing Right – Marshmello & Kane Brown
  • Higher (feat. Nipsey Hussle & John Legend) – DJ Khaled
  • bad guy – Billie Eilish
  • Beautiful People (feat. Khalid) – Ed Sheeran
  • Higher Love – Kygo & Whitney Houston [probably the best version of this song, IMO]
  • Room to Fall (feat. Elohim) – Marshmello & Flux Pavilion
  • Stacy – Quinn XCII
  • Shoulda Known Better – MKTO
  • Flying On My Own – Celine Dion [CELINEEEEEEEEEE – need I say more?!]

Another playlist in the books! As always, search “baconama” on Spotify and search for the “Against The Grain_July 2019” playlist. For my Apple Music people, search “baconama” and you’ll find a “July 2019” playlist ready for you to enjoy!

Stella Barra Pizzeria

Ever since I was diagnosed with Celiac, I’ve been on the hunt for the best gluten free pizza out there. I began my search in Detroit, home of some of the biggest pizza companies in the nation, and am now in search of the perfect GF pizza pie in the windy city.

Before I officially kicked off my carb-filled journey into pizza-food-baby-happiness (or sadness in some cases?!), I decided that I should jot down some notes and share my findings with the interwebs. For the sake of consistency, I chose to rate each pizza (1-10, 10 being the best) on several attributes to help me determine Chicago’s best gluten free pizza:

  • Visual appearance
    • Is it burnt?
    • Does it look store bought/mass produced?
  • Texture
    • Is it too dry?
    • Does it fall apart? Conversely, can it stay together when you fold it?
    • Does it hold up well with the sauce and toppings?
  • Flavor (I can still vaguely remember what a true gluten-filled pizza dough tastes like, so I try to compare to that.)
    • Are there any off flavors?
    • If it’s made with alternative ingredients (like cauliflower, quinoa, or zucchini), are they too pronounced? Do the flavors blend well with the sauces and flavors of the toppings?
  • Re-heatability (I don’t do cold pizza)
    • How well does it hold up on day 2 once it’s put in the oven or toaster oven?

My quest began at Lincoln Park’s very own Stella Barra Pizzeria, where they’re known for their artisanal handcrafted pies. After many minutes of intense deliberation, I decided to order the “Quattro Formaggi” with proscuitto on their potato and rice flour dough. The “Quattro Formaggi” is topped with parmesan cream, mozzarella, gruyere, and taleggio cheeses. For those wondering, yes, I popped a Lactaid prior to eating. I also took a Glutenease because I knew there’d be some potential for cross-contamination.

GF 2

“So how did it go?!” you’re probably asking. Here’s how they performed:

  • Visual appearance: 7
    • Lost points due to some burning along the edges
    • Gained points because it’s clearly hand tossed with irregularities in shape
  • Texture: 10
    • Crispy, but also let me fold it without that typical gluten-free break, which is the worst – right, GF friends?!
  • Flavor: 9
    • I couldn’t even tell I wasn’t eating gluten-filled dough. In my opinion, potato and rice flours tend to yield better results than other gluten alternative products.
    • I know it was most likely due to all of the cheeses, but I felt like the crust portion tasted just like a Chez-It, so I was into that.
  • Re-heatability: 8
    • Does any pizza hold up as well the next day?? Brownie points for getting crispy again in the toaster oven, but just wasn’t the same as day-of.
  • TOTAL SCORE: 34/40, 85%, B
    • Honestly, I think we started off on a pretty high note. I’m super interested to see how the others compete with this one.

 

For a better understanding of what Stella Barra’s GF pizza looks like compared to a non-GF ‘za, here’s mine next to Steph’s (hers has an egg and is on the left):

 

 

Have you had some GREAT gluten free pizza lately? Let’s hear about it! Comment below with your favorite GF pizza and if you found it in Chicago, I’ll check it out.

June 2019

Ah… June. The kick off of summer, the beginning of wedding season, my birthday month (hi, fellow Geminis!), Pride month, and most importantly: pool and beach season. So many artists have dropped new hits just in time for your annual “summer jamzzz” playlist, so I’m sure you’re probably wondering how you’ll ever be able to generate the perfect playlist in time for your weekend BBQ. Fret no more friends! Your June ATG Playlist is here to grace your Bose speakers, AirPods, or iPhone in a red solo cup.

Let’s get right to it, shall we? Here are the tunes for the month of June:

  • Tough Love (feat. Agnes & Vargas & Lagola) – Avicii
  • I Don’t Care – Ed Sheeran & Justin Bieber [Ed’s new sound is top notch]
  • Wish I Knew You – The Revivalists [shout out to Josh for this rec!]
  • Find Someone – A R I Z O N A
  • Rescue Me – OneRepublic
  • Good Things Fall Apart – Illenium & Jon Bellion
  • Sugar, We’re Goin Down – Kap Slap
  • Me! (Acoustic) – Tyler Ward & Karis
  • Truth Hurts – Lizzo [I live in a house divided on Lizzo and clearly I’m on the right side…]
  • Juice – Lizzo
  • Like A Girl – Lizzo [An ANTHEM.]
  • Cross Me (feat. Chance the Rapper) – Ed Sheeran
  • Mother’s Daughter – Miley Cyrus [lots more of her to come!]
  • Never Really Over – Katy Perry [was surprised I liked this since I haven’t been into her recent singles]
  • We Were Young – Petit Biscuit & JP Cooper
  • Sad Forever – Lauv
  • Hold You Down – X Ambassadors
  • Someone You Loved – Lewis Capaldi
  • Talk – Khalid [he could sing an accounting book to me and I’d put that on the next playlist]
  • Drugs & The Internet – Lauv
  • If I Can’t Have You – Shawn Mendes
  • Easier – 5 Seconds of Summer
  • Love Me Less (feat. Quinn XCII) – MAX & Quinn XCII
  • Unholy – Miley Cyrus
  • Dear Society – Madison Beer
  • On My Way – Alan Walker, Sabrina Carpenter & Farruko
  • Never Go Back – Dennis Lloyd
  • Gone 2 Long – PRETTYMUCH [anyone else think of your AIM screenname when you see a number in a song title? lylas]
  • Mood – Zack Martino & Dyson
  • Alligator – Of Monsters and Men

There it is! An hour and a half of sonic goodness formulated just for you, readers. Search “baconama” on Spotify and search for the “Against The Grain_June 2019” playlist, sit back, and enjoy! For my Apple Music people, search “baconama” and you’ll find a “June 2019” playlist waiting for you.

Happy listening. Until next time.

Iceland in May

Heads up: this is a pretty long post – enjoy! 

Let me start off this new addition to the blog with an important fact about me: I am not a very organized person except for when it comes to work and planning events. Outside of my 8-5, I leave a trail of chaos in my wake – piles of clothes (I separate clean from dirty, I’m not a savage), and have no idea how to effectively load a dishwasher. Don’t get me wrong, I can clean up my mess every once in a while, but I’m definitely not the type of person who needs to have my home sparkling clean at all times. Glad we got that out of the way.

Now, back to when I am organized: planning events – more specifically, planning trips and creating itineraries. I don’t need my trips planned down to the minute because I think that takes the fun out of your trip, but I do love the process of booking travel and finding fun and meaningful things to do while abroad to make the most out of my journey. I get this fun little trait from my dad.

Almost a year ago to the day, Josh and I took the trip of a lifetime to Iceland, Paris, and Nice. We were gone for 13 days, but it felt like so much longer. We (read: I) planned for so long, meticulously researched what to pack for “springtime” (read: cold and rainy AF season) in Iceland, and pored over Lonely Island’s Iceland Travel Guide for months, so when we were finally on our way to DTW, it felt surreal.

Here’s what we did:

  • Day 1
    • Flew WOW Airlines (RIP) into Keflavik International Airport. Pretty sure the airline that was the next closest in price was IcelandAir, but it probably depends on what time of the year you go.
    • Rented a car (this is a must if you plan on going anywhere outside of Reykjavik) – Get insurance and be prepared to spend quite a bit on gas.
    • Drove 3 hours to Vik and stayed at Guesthouse Carina, which was set on a hill overlooking the village of Vik and the sea.
      • *Note: The only place you’ll actually find a true hotel is in Reykjavik. If you’re venturing outside of the city, expect to stay in guesthouses with shared bathrooms.
    • We explored Seljalandfoss waterfall, Skogafoss waterfall, Reyniksfjara (the black sand beach), Myrdalsjokull Glacier, and the Vik church.
      • *Note: “foss” means waterfall, so anytime you see that on a map, you’re bound to see something awesome.
    • Places to eat:
      • Halldorskaffi

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Day 1 Iceland

  • Day 2
    • Before we drove 2 hours to Hof, we doubled back by a half hour and went to see the crashed DC-3 plane on Sólheimasandur. This was something I was dying to see because all of pictures I had seen were out of this world. The sand on the beach is too soft for vehicles, so you have to park on the side of the road (there’s a small parking lot) and walk the distance to see the plane. The walk was surprisingly long (I think close to 2 or 3 miles) and in true Iceland fashion, we walked through a rain storm, a bit of sunshine, and then more rain. Finally, when we got to the plane, the sky cleared and we were able to enjoy the sight.
    • After we saw the plane, we hiked about a mile to see Svartifoss, a pretty waterfall tucked back into the national park. The view of the snow-covered mountains was amazing from here.
    • On the way to Hof, we also checked out the Svinafellsjokull Glacier, Dverghamrar (translated to ‘The Dwarf Cliffs’), and Foss a Sidu.
    • In Hof, we stayed in the main building at the Hof 1 Hotel, another shared-bathroom guesthouse.
    • Places to eat:
      • Fosshotel Glacier

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Day 2 Iceland

  • Day 3
    • Drove an hour and a half from Hof to Hofn (confusing, I know) and stayed at House on the Hill.
    • En route to Hofn, we stopped to see the famous Glacier Lagoon, held mini icebergs on the Diamond Beach, and saw some remarkable glacier formations at Skaftafell National Park.
    • Places to eat:
      • Hotel Hofn
      • Pakkhus
      • Kaffi Hornio

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Day 3 Iceland

  • Day 4
    • This day was a doozy. We drove almost 6 hours (back west) to Gullfoss, where we stayed at Hotel Gullfoss. Complimentary breakfast was clutch.
    • The nice thing about it being light for so long is that we were still able to make it to see the huge Gullfoss waterfall. Hands down one of the coolest things I’ve seen. There’s also a really nice welcome center that has food and [very expensive] souvenirs.
    • We also went to check out the Geysir (pronounced gay-zeer) hot springs area, which was really neat. Geysir was actually inactive while we were there, but we were able to witness a smaller neighbor geyser, Strokkur, erupt.
    • Places to eat:
      • Efstidalur II – Kaffihús/ísbúð – Literally farm to table. If you eat upstairs, get a seat by the windows and look down at your new cow friends. Really great ice cream, too.

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Day 4 Iceland

  • Days 5 & 6
    • This is when I tell you that if you choose to visit the same towns that we did, you only need 5 days. I repeat: you do not need 6 days. Days 5 and 6 were spent in Reykjavik, where we were able to fully explore the city in a couple of hours and found ourselves wondering what to do next. We were so tired from traveling the previous days that we actually went back to our hotel (gasp!) and caught up on season 2 of 13 Reasons Why, which had just came out. At this point, we were also so ready for normal food (I was mostly living off of RxBars #notsponsored) and actually wound up eating at Joe and the Juice twice because they were 1) cheap compared to other places and 2) had gluten free bread for mmm… turkey & pesto paninis.
    • While in Reykjavik, we explored the Hallgrimskirkja church, wandered around the famous Harpa concert hall, and checked out the Sun Voyager sculpture.
    • The last thing we did while in Iceland was visit the Blue Lagoon. Honestly, the lagoon was my favorite part of the Iceland portion of our trip. We chose the comfort-level package, which gave us a towel, one free drink of our choice, and a silica mud mask. Once you enter the lagoon, you’re able to stay for as long as you like. We wandered around the lagoon, which is massive BTW, in search of hot spots since the majority of the water is like a slightly cooled down bath temperature.
      • Fun fact: the lagoon contains 9 million liters of geothermal seawater and it renews itself every 40 hours.
      • Pro tip: Like we did, make the lagoon the last thing you do on your trip. Our scheduled time slot was around 9pm and it was the perfect way to wind down after a travel-packed adventure before we jetted off to Paris.
    • We stayed at Reykjavik Treasure B&B and it was great. The mother & daughter duo are so nice and really go out of their way to make your stay the best. We had left our camera there (technically we left it in our rental car that was locked in a parking garage, but that’s a story for another time) and they shipped it all the way back to us – no questions asked. Breakfast included (obviously, since it’s a bed and breakfast) that was top notch.

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A few tips and tricks:

  • Busy season for Iceland tourism is “summer”, which is June through early September. Booking in shoulder season (May and end of September/early October) will yield slightly lower rates.
  • Book everything VERY far in advance! Can’t stress this one enough. Since there aren’t mainstream hotels outside of Reykjavik, guesthouses book up quickly. I started researching around October/November for our May trip and was surprised to see that only a few rooms were left at some of the guesthouses.
  • Basically everywhere took credit card, which was great – no need to bring cash or deal with the exchange booth at the airport.
  • When renting a car, get an SUV (the only truly paved road is the Ring Road) and make sure you get insurance. Some friends of mine had their car door ripped off from high winds and didn’t have insurance – not good. Also, go in with the mentality that you’ll be spending quite a bit on gas. I’m pretty sure that we spent around $500 over the course of 6 days.
  • When driving, check the signs and tune into the local radio stations to listen out for closed roads. The Ring Road almost never closes, but the smaller roads tend to shut down suddenly due to high winds or wet conditions. Keep a map with you at all times and be prepared to change course.
  • Unless you’re eating lamb or beef, everything is imported and as a result, expensive. The airlines get you there for less so they can promote tourism, but the Icelandic businesses obviously need to charge a healthy chunk of change to be profitable. No joke, I paid around $25 for a “Caesar salad” that I’m pretty sure was iceberg lettuce with ranch.
  • Speaking of food… Their gas stations had some of the best food. The highest rated restaurants on Yelp were ones that had fuel tanks out front.
  • Icelandic horses have better hair than Fabio. Pull over on the side of the road to snag a pic with them – you won’t regret it.

IMG_0877

What I packed:

  • Rain pants! I wore these a lot and was so thankful that I bought them because it rained basically every day and the combination of cold, rain, and wind made it pretty rough some days.
  • My LLBean boots – the perfect mix of waterproof boot and “hiking” boot. We didn’t go on any extreme hikes, so these were perfect for me. Honestly, these were the only shoes I wore while we were in Iceland.
    • Pro tip: Wear them on the plane so you don’t have the extra lbs. in your luggage.
  • Patagonia Snap-T Pullover – I wish I packed 5 of these.
  • Turtlenecks – My favorites are the tissue turtlenecks from J.Crew since they’re relatively lightweight and make a great base layer.
  • Sweaters!
  • LLBean boot socks
  • A bathing suit that I didn’t mind getting dirty – We planned on going to one of the hot springs in the side of the mountain, but didn’t wind up making it. We did; however, get to enjoy the Blue Lagoon and wound up needing our suits for that.
  • RxBars and Lara Bars for quick GF fixes during the road trips

 

Overall, we had such a good time in Iceland. Would I go back tomorrow? Nah. Would I recommend it to others? Absolutely – it’s a once in a lifetime experience.

Have you been to Iceland? Was your experience similar to ours? I’d love to hear from you!

Making New Friends in a New City

Recently, I was asked to be a guest blogger on a local Detroit women empowerment blog site. You may remember my first post for them back in March of 2018 about balancing my busy lifestyle with self-care. This time, I wrote about my experience of moving to Chicago and my attempt at making new friends. Moral of the story: making new friends as an adult is hard enough, but making new ones in a new city is even harder.

Have you moved somewhere new where you’ve had to create new friend groups? What steps did you take to establish your relationships? I’ll take any tips I can get!

May 2019

From hearing Celine Dion’s “I Surrender” in the dance studio to Avicii’s “Levels” at a frat party to JT’s “Mirrors” blasting on my first date with Josh, music has been such an integral part of my life. So many songs can bring back a massive flood of memories – some fantastic moments, some I’d rather not re-live.  It’s also amazing how quickly a mood can change when you hear “Forever” by Chris Brown. Does it make everyone want to recreate the scene from The Office or is that just me? Anyone else get in a gloomy mood and play the saddest of all sad songs just to really emphasize that bad mood and then stare out the window of the car/train/bus like you’re in a movie? And then realize that you’re pretending you’re in a movie and immediately regret it and turn on “Let’s Get Loud” by J.Lo to make up for it? Also just me? Cool.

Needless to say, music is such an important part of my life and I’m so happy to share my love of it with you. Every month, I’ll be creating a new playlist for you guys – new songs plus some throwbacks that’ll have you saying “Oh yeahhhhh, I remember this one!” Even better: I’ll be sharing those playlists on Spotify for you all to enjoy!

May’s roundup is an extra long one at a whopping 42 songs because I’m combining it with April tunes. Here it is:

  • Piece Of Your Heart (feat. GOODBOYS) – Meduza
  • Just You and I – Tom Walker
  • SOS (feat. Aloe Blacc) – Avicii
  • Carry On – Kygo & Rita Ora
  • Before I Let Go (Homecoming Live Bonus Track) – Beyonce [YOU GUYSSSSSS]
  • Shine Ya Light – Rita Ora
  • Higher Love – James Vincent McMorrow
  • This Girl – Kungs & Cookin’ On 3 Burners
  • Play My Drum – Sandra Lyng
  • Paradise – Bazzi
  • Cool – Jonas Brothers [They’re back and I’m SO happy about it]
  • Out Of Ur Mind – Brighton
  • Better Not – Louis The Child & Wafia
  • Down in Flames – Ella Vos
  • Better With You – Michl
  • Ashes (Steve Aoki Deadpool Demix) – Celine Dion [PS, She’s coming to CHI on Dec 1!]
  • Stay (feat. Karen Harding) – Le Youth
  • You Be Love (feat. Billy Raffoul) – Avicii
  • Come Fly With Me – Ruelle [Yes, that song that you’re thinking of but dark, spooky, and awesome]
  • Call You (feat. Nasri) – Cash Cash
  • Never Enough – Loren Allred [I get the goosies every time]
  • Die Trying – Michl
  • September (Remix) – Throttle x Earth, Wind & Fire [This will always be the jam]
  • Bones (feat. OneRepublic) – Galantis
  • I’m So Tired… – Lauv & Troye Sivan
  • Girl – Maren Morris [On a BIG Maren kick lately and this song really speaks to me…]
  • Flavor – Maren Morris [sassy and about rocking your individuality]
  • ME! (feat. Brendon Urie) – Taylor Swift [SHE’S BACK!]
  • Phases – PRETTYMUCH
  • No One (Jonas Blue Remix) – Jess Glynne
  • What I Like About You (feat. Theresa Rex) – Jonas Blue
  • Who’s Got Your Love – Cheat Codes & Daniel Blume
  • Woke Up Late (feat. Hailee Steinfeld) – Drax Project
  • Forgive Me Friend (feat. Swedish Jam Factory) – Smith & Thell [poppier Mumf & Sons?]
  • Better When You’re Gone – David Guetta, Brooks & Loote
  • All You Need to Know (feat. Calle Lehmann) – Gryffin & SLANDER
  • Power is Power – SZA & The Weeknd & Travis Scott
  • All Day and Night – Jax Jones, Martin Solveig & Madison Beer
  • Solid Gold (feat. Kira Divine & Marques Toliver) – PNAU
  • Joy – Bastille
  • Here We Go – WILD
  • Knocking on Heavens Door – RAIGN [Another cover of a classic song but with a dark twist]

That’s it for this month’s playlist! You can find it by searching “baconama” on Spotify and searching for the “Against The Grain_May 2019” playlist. I’d love to hear from you! Let me know what you think of the playlists and if you find any songs that you can’t stop playing on repeat.

Happy listening. Until next time.

I promise I didn’t mean to ghost you…

You guys. A LOT has happened in the past however many months that I’ve unintentionally ghosted you all. Apologies for that. This is going to be a word vomit type post, but I just feel like I have so much to update you all on and have some changes coming to the blog that you might enjoy.

First off, we’re engaged! Honestly, it feels like we got engaged forever ago, but it was really  just last May. Josh and I took a trip to Iceland, Paris, and Nice at the end of May 2018 and he wound up popping the question in front of my FAVORITE place in Paris – le Sacre Coeur Basilica. He knew how much I love le Sacre Coeur, so it was really special. He must have been taking notes over the course of our 6-year relationship because he knew how important it was to me that someone captured the moment on camera and actually hired a professional photographer to snap the candid shots, which is seriously impressive. I may write an entire post just on our trip [more on this in a sec], so stay tuned…

Since May, we (mostly me, let’s be real) have been chipping away at wedding planning. We’re getting married this September (!!!!!), so it’s coming in hot, but have had SO much time to plan that I’ve been as cool as a cucumber thus far. To this day, my mom will tell you that my only “bridezilla” (ew, that term is bleh and I hate it) moment was when I was trying to refuse MORE MONEY from my parents. Strange, yes, but really the only time that I ever got a little heated because I’m stubborn and want to do everything myself. See below for more proof…

As if my full time job and wedding planning wasn’t enough, I’m still going to school to get my MBA degree. Josh is actually back in school too, but to get his masters in information technology/techie systems/things I don’t understand, etc. We’re both taking the fall semester off to enjoy our wedding, seeing family from out of the state and country (shout out to my fam from Wales) and honeymoon (we’re going to Greece!), which I’m looking forward to. I’m paying for my MBA out of pocket (insert stubbornness [or badassness?] to accept loans here), so I’ve been taking my time and have only been taking one course per semester. At this rate, I won’t graduate until 2021, but I’m alright with it.

Now to another fun fact: We moved! Against The Grain DET is now Against The Grain CHI. Our 3rd city together in 4 years. CRAZY. Josh got promoted (YAY!) and relocated to the burbs of Chicago. There was no way in all things holy that I was going to pick up and move to the suburbs of Chicago after having lived in downtown St. Louis and downtown Detroit, so we compromised and found our cozy apartment in Lincoln Park where we’ve settled in quite nicely. I’m obsessed with our apartment and am looking forward to sharing some snapshots with you all so soon.

“So what does all of this mean, Amanda?!” is the question I’m sure all 7 followers that I have are asking. I jest – I may have 10 followers – luh you guys. Anywho, this means that 1) look forward to some gluten-free recommendations in the Windy City, 2) I’ve been cooking up a storm recently and have plenty of GF recipes to share and 3) you’re going to hear a lot more about my life than in the past. I want ATG to be more than just a space to share good food spots and recipes – I want it to be more of a LIFESTYLE blog. I LOVE food, but I also feel like being gluten-free is a lifestyle beyond just what I eat on a day to day basis. There are struggles that come with a Celiac diagnoses that I want to share with you. Beyond that though, I want to share what I’ve been up to – the good, bad, and ugly – including trips, itineraries, wedding planning, health and fitness, shopping (my fave), and just overall wellness. I’m going to start the Contribution Series back up, too, so look forward to hearing from some voices besides mine. It’ll be a fun little adventure that we’re all going to take together. Above all, I want to hear from you! What do you want me to share? As always, thank YOU for following along – all 7-10 of you 🙂

August 2018: Julia

I met August’s guest contributor, Julia, just about two years ago when she was working as a barretender at my Pure Barre studio. Since then, Julia has come over to work with me at Domino’s and has become one of my best work friends. We bonded over our shared love of both Pure Barre and pizza. Check out Jullia’s story below:

Let me start this whole thing off by saying I love dairy. If you had asked me 5 years ago if I could ever become dairy free, I would have laughed in your face and then went and bought ice cream. All of my favorite foods contained dairy, I was living the life. Until one day I started having severe stomach issues, just no good, so bad, no fun at all stomach issues. After about a year of symptoms (way too long, I know) I finally went to the doctor and had an allergy test done. This is when my life changed forever (cue ominous music) my doctor called and told me I could no longer enjoy the amazingness that is dairy.

Now, I’ll admit it took me a long time to completely come to terms with it all. At first I only cut out very creamy things: Cream Cheese, that liquid nacho cheese stuff, and ice cream (yes I may have teared up remembering how awesome ice cream is as I write this). Once I cut out those there was significant improvement. I also stopped drinking actual milk and switched to lactaid, and I thought all my problems were solved. However, I was still eating hard cheeses, on pizza mostly. Pizza is just the best food ever isn’t it? It has a little something for everybody. I thought all was fine and dandy, until me and my hubby went on our 1 year wedding anniversary trip to Chicago. We were eating all our favorite foods; pizza on pizza, nachos, fried foods, lots of beer and I got extremely ill. We had to end our trip early, and I was shocked my body had reacted the way it had. I mean really, why would my body hate me for giving it all the things it can’t digest?

The Chicago trip was a complete wake up call, and that is when I decided it had to happen. I had to rip the band aid off and say good bye to dairy forever. It was a very sad day, and I will never say I don’t miss dairy because I do, but what I learned is that there are amazing substitutes that are better for you than actual dairy that you can buy at your local Kroger, Meijer, or any grocery store. You don’t even need to live near a Whole Foods or other health food store to find great products that work for you. Once I made this change in my life I really realized how dairy affected my body. I had way more energy, my bloat that I always seemed to be carrying disappeared, and results from my workouts increased. It was almost like my body was happy I stopped making it feel sick.

I did have to do some serious experimenting and trial and error to figure out what products worked for me to substitute for dairy and which ones did not. I have never been a picky eater, but being a huge lover of dairy made it hard to try to find similar products that did not actually have dairy in the ingredients. Basically I had to get the idea out of my head that anything was going to taste exactly like cheese without actually being cheese. Same thing with ice cream. When I did that, everything started making more sense. With cheeses I found that Daiya cheddar cheese will actually melt (hellllo nachos and omelet’s), and for salads or anything where the cheese isn’t melted there’s a vegan cheddar cheese at Meijer (it comes in a green bag and I think Meijer actually makes it) that has the same texture as cheese and tastes good “raw.” Daiya has helped a lot with mac n’ cheese as well, they sell a boxed mac n’ cheese (for those of us Kraft kids) and it is creamy and amazing. I switched to almond milk and because it has more protein it’s even given me more energy throughout the day. Trader Joe’s has the best vegan mozzarella (no seriously, I’m Italian and even got my some of my family to love this cheese.) It is gooey and amazing and melts so perfectly. I’m going to be honest though, I am very very picky about my ice cream, I LOVE ice cream, it has always been my favorite dessert. This one has taken me the longest to figure out. I enjoy coconut milk ice cream because it adds another flavor, but not my favorite. Until, the ice cream and vegan gods shined down on earth, and gave us all Ben & Jerry’s dairy free ice cream pints. I tried one that used almond milk, and I was skeptical, I thought I would be let down. However, it blew me away. It tasted just like what I remember ice cream tasting like. I cried tears of joy that day.

Now in conclusion, there is life after being diagnosed with a food allergy. A very yummy, delicious, fulfilling life. If I can do it anyone can. One last piece of advice for all my dairy free kindred spirits out there: Check yo food labels. Even if you don’t think there is any dairy, sometimes there is. I would rather be pouting in a store because I can’t eat something and I know it. Then to accidentally eat it and be out of commission for at least 24 hours. Be smart friends!

Thanks for sharing your story, Julia! What do you all think? Are you dairy free? What are your tricks to living a dairy-free lifestyle? I’d love to hear your comments below!

The One Thing That’s Always In My Purse

Welcome to a new series of posts that I’m calling “Two Minute Reads”. These posts will consist of little blurbs or word vomits that don’t need a research paper to support. Hope you enjoy 🙂

Let me start off this Two Minute Read by saying that this is NOT.AN.AD. I’m not nearly cool enough to be sponsored – I just really stand by this product so much that I felt the need to share it with all of you!

Glutenease by Enzymedica has been a savior when eating out at restaurants and even at dinner parties at friends’ homes. Similar to Lactaid, Glutenease breaks down gluten proteins to make them easier to digest for Celiacs. It’s not perfect and I can definitely still tell that I’ve eaten something my body hates, but the pain is substantially less than what it could have been. It’s important to note that I’m not going around eating bread and pasta – this comes as a last resort if I think I’ve accidentally eaten something that’s been cross-contaminated, which we Celiacs know can happen more often than we hope. Glutenease isn’t cheap, which is a bummer, but it’s worth having around if you’re a Celiac like me. Bonus – it’s vegan, kosher, and non-GMO!

Do you use Glutenease or something similar? I’d love to hear your thoughts – comment below!