Chicago Food Recap

Ahh our Chicago trip seems so long away now. But the memories are good 🙂

Staying in three different AirBnb’s helped extend our reach of where was easily accessible to go sightseeing (and eating). I did a bit of research before we went (one of my favourite things to do pre-holiday it must be said) and found a few top contenders for the best deep pan pizzas in Chicago.

Deep pan is a BIG deal in Chicago. One of the top rated was called Pequod’s. It was lucky we stayed in Wicker Park for the first night because in all honesty we probably wouldn’t have gone there otherwise because it was quite far out from our other Airbnb locations. I mentioned this meal a few posts ago, so go check that out.

Another pizza place we tried out was Lou Malnati’s and was actually one of our final meals. This was another high contender on all the lists of “best pizza”. As a chain there were many all over Chicago. It was very similar to Pequod’s in terms of how long the pizza took to prepare and cook (over 30 minutes) but I have to say, I far more enjoyed this pizza. And I don’t want to really as I always prefer more independent food places over franchises, but it is what it is.

I think the reason I preferred it more is because there wasn’t quite as much dough. It still had a thick base but it was a bit firmer and crispier. When we took a slice from the pan it held its shape better.

It was a lot more cheesy as well – in fact, one slice alone had 730 calories. That is crazy. As I always say tho, you’re on holiday and for me it’s part and parcel of enjoying myself out there.

I had two slices and a whole plate of chicken wings (a mix of buffalo and BBQ flavoured). And we had a sharer of mozzarella sticks.

I’m sure I don’t need to point out the obvious, but that’s a lot of food. It was very good though and we both enjoyed it immensely. But we were equally glad we had a 30 minutes’ walk back to the Airbnb to allow a bit of digestion and fresh air afterwards. Oof!

Of course it goes without saying I ate a lot of chicken wings.

Embarrassing really but I just fricking love them and the States do them so well. And not just your standard buffalo or BBQ fodder, but a range of flavours. While my previous favourite was the standard buffalo with a blue cheese dip (it has to have the dip), my new favourite is Garlic Parmesan butter. Hold. The. Boat. It was so good. No sauce needed, dripping in buttery cheesy goodness. Heavenly.

And I have no shame in admitting that I found this out when we ordered Uber Eats to the Airbnb and had an easy lazy dinner in. Out of a polystyrene box, it rocked my world. I’m not a posh person, I have no food snobbery, and I will happily enjoy it.

A mix of BBQ and Garlic Paremsan cheese

I did eat more colourful food during my time abroad of course. I had a very tasty “bowl” from Chipotle as an easy quick lunch. Tho the length of time it took to order and get it really questions how much of a fast food this really was…and it wasn’t cheap. I did double up on meat and add guacamole but seriously it came to over $10!

And on the same Mexican note, we had a lovely Mexican street food style lunch in a lovely little spot in Little Italy called Chilango. I had a steak rice bowl with lots of salad and salsa.

The post marathon lunch was of course epic as well. We walked the not-very-far way back to our apartment, I showered (best shower of my life, it always is after a marathon) and then stumbled into the very close Bar Louie and proceeded to order far too much food, of which we of course ate most of.

Pulled chicken nachos to share, chicken wings and pork “wings” (kind of ribs on a stick) for me, Pretzels and a burger for Kyle. The waitress was impressed.

The nachos were incredible. I think Kyle humoured me by agreeing to order them because he only had a few while I hoovered them up like nobody’s business. The wings were good and the pork was delicious.

I mean, it all tasted like I’d just run 26.2 miles and there is no better seasoning than that! (Edit: you don’t have to run a marathon to eat all this. I have eaten like this many times and not run a marathon, but the fact you are so hungry and your muscles are so tired and in need of a refuel makes it taste that much more satisfying).

We tried many treats throughout our holiday too like cinnamon sugar pretzel bites at the Navy Pier.

We had Insomnia cookies after we visited the Lincoln Zoo. We loved how they also sell milk along side them and that the cookies were WARM.

And of course fro-yo as a mid-afternoon snack… with all the toppings.

Chicago was a fantastic place to mosey around, shop and enjoy the sights.

I think I enjoyed it a bit more than New York because it felt less hectic, less busy, less noisy and dirty. The weather was cold and sunny, and of course windy. We were lucky to have one rain day at the start but the rest was beautiful.

And to take home (and one evening’s snack of choice) I bought far too many M&M’s.

The different flavours were amazing! White Chocolate Peanut?! Almonds! Pretzels! Ahh it was such a good haul. Now just to pace myself with them…

What do you love eating in America?

Are there any foods you just have to try when on holiday?

Are you a sweet or savoury person? I used to think I was definitely sweet but I think I’m steering closer to savoury (though of course cake is always a winner for me).

The days before the Chicago Marathon

The Chicago Marathon… my last Marathon Major. Jeeze it was stressful.

The week leading up to the race was honestly one of my worst pre-race weeks. Despite feeling fine (albeit tired) during the Bournemouth Half, the days afterwards my knee suddenly felt really stiff and not right. I was VERY confused. It had felt absolutely fine during the race and now it was swollen and sore.

And so the days leading up became project recovery and repair. I iced every night, elevated it, took ibuprofen and didn’t run at all. I was in panic mode. Luckily my very lovely physio had offered to give me a free hour session before I flew (he’s literally a legend) and so I could see him before I flew.

Actually I was supposed to see him Saturday but I’d gotten the date wrong, idiot that I am, so we’d rescheduled for the Wednesday night, the day before Kyle and I were flying. This was fortuitous because Saturday I was fine, but post-Bournemouth I was not!

He worked his magic and I prayed for the best. It’s funny because I’d been so worried about my hamstring and now I had me knee. My hamstring, ironically, felt normal. I was worried about the long flight aggravating it but it felt absolutely fine. I stood up and walked about a number of times but generally it was OK.

So many people on the flight were also going for the marathon which was cool. Spotting people with the Garmin’s and the race tops.

We arrived in Chicago midday, caught the train to Wicker Park, where we were staying for one night in our first Airbnb. Wicker Park was really cool. Very hipster.

We had dinner in the raved about Pequod’s pizzeria. I’d done my research, it had been consistently rated as number one in the deep pie lists.

I’m actually not a big pizza fan but Kyle would eat it every day if he could. He really loves a deep pan as well. I definitely prefer a thinner more rustic base, like sourdough but I was of course going to try it.

We were quite hungry and being the greedy couple that we are, ordered a medium and an order of chicken wings for me. I’d have a slice or two of the pizza but I was there for the wings really. The waitress was sceptical of our eating ability but I was like “lady, American portion sizes were made for us”.

The pizza took a solid 40 minutes to get to us – as the deep pans tend to. By the time it arrived with the wings I was about ready to eat Kyle’s arm. The pizza came in a giant dish and the waiter served us up a slice each. Now a normal human would probably fine with one of those slices. They were THICK. And the cheese pull (a new phrase I’ve only just become acquainted with) was Instagram worthy.

It was ginormous

It was a sausage and mushroom cheese pizza and it was a monster. The base was so thick and doughy. The crust was caramelised burnt Parmesan, as they’re known for.

My wings were good… a mixture of buffalo and BBQ with the blue cheese on the side. I mean, they weren’t anything crazy. Decent wings, I was happy.

I had a couple of slices of the pizza… it was good, big chunks of sausage. Kyle really enjoyed it. It was a little too doughy for my tastes though. It was delicious but I wouldn’t go for it again. I’m more about the toppings!

The next day we headed from Wicker Park to downtown Chicago. We made a little coffee stop in a very cool place called The Wormhole which was full of retro gaming and film memorabilia.

Star Wars lifestyle cardboard characters, a DeLorean car and even an old school Nintendo with all the games. It was good fun.

Then we headed to our next Airbnb. SO fancy, we had the entire apartment. A great view, it’s own kitchen, bathroom and living area. It was very nice indeed. And literally 10 minutes from Grant Park and the Marathon start.

We had a lovely breakfast in Eggy’s Diner, which was just delicious. I had a turkey and goat’s cheese omelette with home fries.

We then headed to the Expo to pick up my bib and Kyle’s bib for the Chicago International 5k.

I was supposed to be running the 5k too but after some hard thinking (and excessive worrying and flustering) I decided not to risk my knee. I could support Kyle, who was going for a PB… and not just any PB, a sub-20 minute 5k! His PB currently stood at a few seconds over, so it was time to give it a blast.

The expo, like all the Majors’ expos, was impressive and big. A giant hall full of running-related vendors, race organisers and cool things to see. It was very busy though and in the Nike clothing area (the official sponsors) there were barely any small sizes. Luckily I picked up a long-sleeve top in small but it was by sheer chance!

I won’t lie though, I was honestly not that excited and feeling very nervous and a bit down. My knee was still swollen and stiff and I had a lot of doubts as to whether I’d get to the start line let alone finish.

As I hadn’t run at all since it had started feeling stiff I had no idea how it would feel when I started running. Would there be pain straight away? Would the pain happen later? I had no idea.

I became even more superstitious, finding wood and touching it every time we talked about each finishing or running.Numbers became weird,g important… the number 13 kept appearing for us. We noticed it appearing in all different places – the number of the booths was to pick my bib up from, the number of our apartment, the price of something we bought…the date of the race. Honestly I became a crazy woman. I don’t know how Kyle didn’t kill me.

What was cool though, in my bib packet it had instructions of how and where to pick my Six Star medal up from at the end of the race. I had a special QR tag on my bib and, if I so desired, I could wear an extra bib on my back to say I was running for my six star. Ha! Like I’d risk such am assumption. No way would I wear that. Tempting fate much, eh? All I could see was me stood at the side of the race, with that bib on my back as I hobbled with a dud knee trying to find Kyle. Nope.

That night to make life easy we decided to Uber Eats some good. We’d walked a lot and couldn’t be bothered to go out again.

Instead I ordered a very large portion of chicken wings (don’t judge me) and Kyle ordered a Philly cheesesteak AND a burger. In fairness, we hadn’t had lunch…I have to say that the wings were incredible. A mixture of BBQ and garlic Parmesan, oh my lord they were amazing. The garlic Parmesan were a new flavour to me and one I want to find again!

The next morning we were up early (a theme for the entire holiday really), ready for the 5k race.

We had to walk about 20 minutes to the start and it was bitterly cold. I was wearing ALL the layers as I wasn’t running, but Kyle just had his hoodie which he’d be handing to me before the start.I’ve never supported at a race on my own before and it was quite stressful for me.

I wanted to get to a good spot to cheer him on… but I wouldn’t have long due to the shortness of the race and his speed. So I headed off before he started.

Hilariously later on when I showed him a cool picture my friend had gotten with Paula Radcliffe Kyle said “oh wow is that Paula? I thought she was mixed race? I had a conversation with that lady at the start of the 5k.” WHAT. So Kyle had no idea he had been stood next to Paula Radcliffe and spoke about the weather with her!

Happily, Kyle did indeed break 20 minutes in the 5k. He got 19:56. Absolutely over the moon for him! I am so proud of him. We the headed quickly back so he could shower and then we headed to meet my lovely friends, who were also running the 5k and the marathon, for brunch.

A simple but effective breakfast!

These were the friends I’d made from the New York Marathon trip last year. It was great to see them but I did just further increase my nerves. In fact the entire day really was me being a bag of nerves and not much fun. Kyle did a fantastic job of looking after me and calming me down.

We did a lot of walking and sight seeing and then eventually it was time for my pre-race dinner and wind down. We went for a takeaway Blaze pizza which was just down the road from the Airbnb.

I got a chicken bbq pizza and we shared a side of garlic dough bites. Perfect!Then off to bed… I was definitely going to start the race, but I wasn’t sure at all how it would go.

Do you usually run the day before a marathon or big race?

Do you have any superstitions?

Have you been to Chicago before?

London trip and Burgess parkrun

This weekend was a lovely long one.

Kyle and I left work on Friday after lunch and walked to the train station to head to London. We had an AirBnb booked so after arriving at Waterloo Station we headed there. Not to state the obvious but it was a pretty hot one! Walking and using the tube was hardwork.

After settling into our accommodation we headed to London Bridge to go up The Shard.

Neither of us had done this before so it was exciting to go up. Though I have to say, the number of queues before you get up there is a little ridiculous: there’s a queue to get inside, then a queue to get your ticket, then a queue to have your items checked, then a queue to have a photo taken (which is mandatory and later you have to queue to view and then pay for if you actually want it), then a queue to get into the elevator before FINALLY arriving on the viewing floor. Jeeze. But once you’re up there it’s pretty spectacular. We had a lovely clear day so got a great view.

We avoided the expensive ice cream (£3 per scoop!) and cocktails at the bar (£13.50!) – definitely not in Portsmouth anymore eh. And then we headed back to the AirBnb to get ready for dinner.

We were going to the Chelsea branch of the Marco Pierre White steakhouse. We glammed up and got an Uber there (who was super friendly and even recommended us the same restaurant we had booked for brunch to the next day – great minds!).

The restaurant was super posh – definitely not something we’re used to 😉

We both had Whiskey Mac cocktails while we perused the menu. I drank mine trying to convince myself I do in fact like whiskey (I don’t, unless large amounts of the ice has melted into it). For starters we had the chicken parfait, then I had the duck leg salad and Kyle had steak, and for pudding we both had sticky toffee pudding.

It was very tasty, but quite small portions. I imagine for “normal” people this would be fine but I’m a greedy large appetited person.

We had grand ambitions of going to a pub and having a few more drinks, but reality set in and we realised buying a few snacks from a corner shop and going back to the AirBnb to watch some Good Place was actually better. We’re simple souls.

The next morning we walked to Burgess parkrun (unsurprisingly in Burgess Park). It was so hot. It was a two mile walk so we were nice and toasty when we got there.

While we were milling around I heard a man talking to two others about his parkrun Alphabet Challenge progress. He mentioned he was going to York very soon and then in a couple of week he was off somewhere in Poland for the Z,

Being the nosy person I am, I interjected and asked which parkrun in Poland. I asked because recently my Z for Zary had been removed from counting as a Z in the challenge. I only found this out fairly recently when I checked on my Bingo Challenge progress. Yep, no more Zary in the Z list. After asking around I found out it’s because the Z in Zary is actually not technically a Z in the Polish/Russian language (it has a special dot above it, meaning it means something else).

I mean, of course I was a bit frustrated when I found this out – I went all that way! But actually I really only have myself to blame for this mistake being the non-Polish speaking ignorant English girl… I don’t regret going to Zary of course as I loved going and it was a great adventure for Kyle and I. It also just means I need to go back to Poland to go to the actual real Z parkrun there (without the little dot above it), Zielona Góra. Watch this space…

But anyway, the man couldn’t remember which one he was going to but said his friends had been thorough in their organising. Well, good to luck him!

Burgess parkrun was a beautiful course which ran through the park, next to the large pond (small lake?) and back round again.

It was lovely and flat, asides from a couple of very brief inclines. And the marshals were lovely and enthuasiastic cheering us along.

My hamstring niggled a little but nothing major. I kept my pace controlled. I find it very hard though during parkrun because as you get to the end people are more enthusiastic in their cheering (“come on, sprint finish!”) and as tempting as that is, it’s not ideal when you’re trying to be sensible.

And it’s hard when people suddenly surge past you… Of course I did speed up a bit, but I tried so hard not to get too carried away in the moment. My time was 24:26.

At the end they had bananas and free gels to try (I declined both, far too hot). Then we headed quickly back to the AirBnb to get showered and head to our brunch in Covent Garden, The Big Easy.

Now BBQ food at 11am might not sound like everyone’s cup of tea but for me this was the absolute dream. It was called the Boozy Brunch and the one we selected (The Big Pig Gig) was an all you can eat BBQ food and unlimited drink. We’re not huge drinkers (and it was 11am…) so we opted for Diet Cokes (unlike the table behind us who were at least three pints throughout the meal haha).

I felt a bit bad because on our second Diet Coke I said to the waitress quite firmly (or so Kyle tells me…) not to bring straws with our fresh glasses. The waitress looked a bit affronted told me actually they were eco-friendly straws… Whoops that’s me told!

Anyway the food itself was so good. We had pulled pork, chicken legs, pork ribs, cornbread, coleslaw, BBQ beans and chips.

Once we got through our first ’round’ the waitress was there straight away asking what bits we’d like again, or just a bit of everything again? Well… just a bit of everything please!

Kyle was a big fan of the cornbread, I loved the ribs and neither of us touched the chips (why waste valuable stomach space!). But everything was delicious. On finishing most of the second round the waitress came back. We were both fairly full but being greedy I asked for a couple more ribs. You know, just because.

THEN I was stuffed. Ooooooof!

I had previously had ideas of going to Doughnut Time afterwards but noooo way would this be happening now. Also, the thought of giant sickly doughnuts really was not appealing in the heat.

We then rolled walked back to Waterloo and headed back home. Kyle played on his iPad while I read my newly acquired book, Ready Player One.

A trip well spent!

How was your weekend?

Do you like alcohol with a brunch?

Have you been up The Shard?

What Should You Get For Your Next Piercing?

Bit of a different collaborative post today! I only have my belly button pierced but I have been tempted by a crazy ear piercing – like top of the ear or something like that.

Piercings are an incredibly versatile way to change your look depending on your mood. Unlike tattoos, piercings can be removed easily and can heal with no trace expensive removal treatment. If you’re thinking of adding a shiny peice of body modifcation, here is a quickfire guide to help you decide on your next piercing.

Image Source- CC0 Licence 

Ears

Lots of people get their ears pierced when they’re very young. They are easy to manage and maintain and don’t take a lot of after-care. However, there are plenty of other piercings that can be done on the ears, which can change your look subtly. Piercings like tragus and gold helix piercings can give you a subtle edge to your look. Cost-wise these can vary from about 5 pounds to £25 after-care can be as simple as a saline solution swab, and slight rotation. Lobe earrings can be removed and changed after six weeks, but cartilage piercings take a little longer to heal. 

Nose

Within some cultures, a nose piercing is a right of passage into womanhood. Whether you choose a subtle gem stud or a more noticeable ring, nose piercings really do suit most people. A trustworthy Piercer would charge between £25 and £45 with free after-care. Most nostril piercings are initially fixed with a hooked stud which needs to be left for at least eight weeks before changing the jewellery. Of course, nasal embellishments don’t have to stop at the nostril. A septum piercing is edgy and can easily be hidden away when you don’t want it on display. This type of piercing would cost around £50, including after-care.

Body piercing

Bellybutton and nipple piercings are a more intimate type of body modification which may not be seen by everybody on a day-to-day basis. Bellybutton piercings were particularly popular in the late 1990s and early to thousands when low rise jeans and crop tops were at the height of fashion. However, with lots of people opting for belly covering high-rise jeans, the popularity of the belly peircing has decreased.

Others

Of course, we cannot explore types of piercing without looking at micro dermal piercings. Micro dermal piercings are placed surgically to the surface of the skin. They can be done anywhere, to the face to the shoulders to the small of your back. However, due to them being on the surface of the skin, they are not permanent and can leave scars. Another type of temporary piercing is the corset piercing— Where two lines of rings Create the look of a Corset Going down the body. Mainly used for alternative photo shoots, the rings are tied together with a thin ribbon. Both of these piercings are incredibly delicate and require care to prevent pain if they get caught on clothing!

As with any piercing, it is most important to make sure that you go to a licenced qualified piercing practitioner, as doing this piercing in the wrong way can lead to infections- which not only hurt but can cause lasting damage to the skin.

Have you got any piercings?

My travels up North

I mean I guess it’s probably more accurate to say to the midlands, but for me anywhere north of Bristol feels “Up North” as I live so south 😉

But accurate geography aside, Kyle and I drove up to Stoke-On-Trent on Friday to stay with my grandad ahead of the Manchester Marathon on the Sunday.

Before that though we had a nice walk down to Lee-On-Solent to have some filling breakfast to fuel us for the 3.5 hour car journey. I like to have a bit of a walk or some sort of movement before a long journey as otherwise your body just feels so meh. So we walked about 45 minutes to the Penguin Cafe in Lee for some brunch.

We went for the rather greedy Emperor Breakfast, which was pretty much everything I love about a fry-up. GIANT.

I swapped my hasbrowns for more black pudding

Kyle even got extra toast. When we get breakfast we mean business. The Penguin Cafe is a lovely place – though it is very much your cheap and cheerful greasy spoon. Everything tasted delicious – so I’ll let them off for their bean contamination 😉

After a lonnnnng drive to Stoke we got to spend a nice evening with my grandad and enjoy a home cooked meal of steak, vegetables and potatoes. It’s always lovely to see him and hear about his adventures in Scotland in the Cairngorms Reindeer Centre where he volunteers twice a year as their handyman and general all-round fixer-upper (“Handy Paul” as they call him). At nearly 80 I’m very proud of him.

Beautiful spring weather

The next morning Kyle and I ran the 1.5(ish) miles to Hanley park for the Hanley parkrun.

Happily it was a lovely downhill to get our legs moving. Hanley park itself was a beautiful park with a lovely pond.

Now I remember running Hanley parkrun a few years ago when I stayed at my grandad’s with my dad before the Liverpool Marathon. However I DO NOT remember it being that hilly (actually after going back to the old post I have clearly stated it was “challenging”. Obviously I wiped it from my memory…).

I told Kyle I thought it was flat but actually it really wasn’t. It’s number 406 on the elevation line-up of all the UK parkruns. My home parkrun Netley with it’s three inclines is 212!

We lined up, all happy and innocent of what was ahead, and got ready to start. Kyle and I agreed if one of us felt good to run ahead and as we got going I decided I felt like I bit of a push.

As we turned the corner we hit the first hill. OK I sort of remembered this now… but it was only one hill. Then we had a lovely stretch of downhill, where I lost Kyle (he’s a very cautious downhill runner whereas I’m pretty much a free-faller). And then we looped back round to the same hill. Hmmm.

The course, in the end, included this hill another time AND a nastier longer hill twice. So actually it wasn’t flat at all and was actually very undulating. At 1.5 miles I felt that draining feeling of tiredness where I wasn’t sure I could maintain my speed anymore. But the downhills helped me catch my breath and give me back some energy.

I managed to overtake a few females on the final mile and powered to the finish as second female. I finished in 21:42 and Kyle, not too far behind, finished 22:21.

The first female was already done and I overheard her talking to someone and saying she was from Portsmouth. I jumped over to say so was I. Turns out her local is Southsea and she was visiting family. What a small world!

Then we made our way slowly back to my grandad’s. Annoyingly having to climb up the giant hill we sailed breezily down before. Ooof it was a grind!

We got washed up, had breakfast then headed to Liverpool to see my lovely friend Charlotte, her husband and her little boy, Arthur. She used to live in Brighton (a far more accessible visiting distance) but now she’s so far away it seemed silly not to make the most of being nearby and dropping in.

As I knew I wanted a larger dinner I decided to be sensible and have a lighter lunch (yes, this is still Anna… mental I know). I went for a vegan salad but added chicken (I know, I know). It had falafels and chickpeas and was very tasty but…well, very light.

It was lovely seeing Charlotte but then we had to head off to our next destination – Manchester! Kyle and I were staying in an AirBnb about three miles from the race start and about a ten minute drive from the city centre, which was perfect.

We met up with my other friend, John from many MarathonTalk adventures, and found a perfect, albeit hidden away, pizza restaurant to carb load adequately before the race called Dogs ‘n’ Dough. John was going to be running the marathon too (Kyle wasn’t, he’d be supporting).

The pizza place was very cool and quirky, and helpfully very quiet! I went for BBQ chicken pieces to start. And a cheeky Bud Light.

And then followed it up with a giant 12 inch deep pan pulled pork pizza (The Pig Lebowski). Normally I’m more of a crispy thin fan but this was very tasty. And very filling.

I was definitely going to be well fueled for the next day! I was pretty much sent into a carb coma.

Centre of Manchester

It was nice to catch up with John, although we both admitted that it didn’t really feel like we’d be running a marathon the next day. He was going to be taking it a bit easier (he’s a 3:12 marathoner usually but is training for a much longer event). I wasn’t sure of my plans yet (am I ever??). I was pretty much going to see how it felt on the day. But I kind of wanted to give it a bit of a blast as it seemed like the weather was going to be cool and the course was flat. So an ideal opportunity.

The classic flat lay

John headed back to his hotel and Kyle and I headed back to our AirBnb. The couple who lived there (we were in a room, rather than an entire flat) were lovely and friendly. One of them had run the marathon before so I got to ask her a bit about it. It was quite amusing when they were advising me to have a good carbohydrate rich breakfast and get a good night sleep and giving me tips on running a marathon in general… they then asked if it was my first. I told them it was my 19th and they looked stunned. They then said “oh well I guess you know what you’re doing then!” hehe.

Have you ever been to Manchester before?

Do you prefer thick crusted or thin base pizzas?

What’s the hilliest parkrun you’ve done?