My Travel Bucket List

I’m dreaming of far away lands today….

Someone take me on a vacation? Ah, that sounds nice right about now.

Capella Ixtapa

I’ve been thinking about a “travel bucket list” a lot lately. There are so many places in this world I’d love to visit and things I’d like to experience. So, I thought I’d make a list and perhaps start working on crossing a few of them off over time. Obviously, my list of places I’d like to see is probably just a dream and not a reality, but it doesn’t hurt to hope!


What places are on YOUR travel bucket list? Any ideas of must-see spots I should add to mine?

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Stripes, floral, and cowboy boots in Orlando (and Harry Potter!)

Last week, Justin and I took a long weekend and headed over to Orlando for some fun at Universal Studios.

You guys – it is December. Last weekend, it was around 80 degrees. I had envisioned wearing a coat, pants, and boots to enjoy the Christmas activities. Nope! Instead, I was sporting short sleeves, shorts, and cowboy boots.

Yep. It just seems a bit wrong…but at least I was comfortable! Whenever we visit theme parks, I have a challenge as to what to wear. Mostly, it is in relation to footwear – I just don’t like wearing gym shoes. Personal preference. But – thankfully there are some alternatives. I bought these cowboy boots back in college…for a sorority party. I spent all of about $20-$30 on them, and they’re still going strong today.

Don’t underestimate the awesomeness of a slouchy cowboy boot. They pair with so many outfits! You don’t need to don plaid and jeans to make them work (although you totally could)!

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Our Michigan Adventures

Our trip to Michigan was brief yet filled with activity. We were in town for my cousin’s wedding, so there was definitely a lot of visiting with family involved! Living in Florida, we don’t get to see all of my cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents very often, so it is always enjoyable to spend some quality time together!

My parents, Justin, and I were driving in from Chicago, and we picked up my brother at the Grand Rapids airport on Friday afternoon. Then, it was straight to a restaurant for some much needed food! My mom had looked around for a local lunch joint that was popular, and she came up with Marie Catrib’s. Well, I can tell you right now: this place was hopping!!!! We had a bit of a wait to sit down at our table, but once we ordered we were really impressed with the food that was presented. The portions were enormous, and the variety of offerings on the menu was well suited for many different dietary needs. Justin had the Chicken Cranberry: grilled chicken breast with provolone and cream cheese, fresh spinach, and cranberry sauce:

I had a bowl of the tomato basil quinoa soup (why haven’t I put quinoa in my soup before?!?! I need to do this at home), and a split a side of seasoned potatoes with my mom (yum!):

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The Purple Pig in Chicago

I thought about including this meal in Chicago in my recap earlier this week…but then changed my mind.

Every time I travel somewhere with good food, there is usually one meal that stands out. As much as I enjoyed Topolobampo (so so so good) and the other Chicago restaurants…our meal at The Purple Pig in Chicago was hands down my favorite dining experience of the trip.

If you aren’t familiar with The Purple Pig (it has been featured quite a few times on food shows like Unique Eats), it is a Mediterranean tapas-style restaurant on The Magnificent Mile in Chicago. Their slogan is “Cheese, Swine, and Wine:” sounds pretty great right from the start, am I right?

My parents, Justin, and I met up with one of my close friends from college, J, as well as my photog friend Steve (side note: if you’re looking for an awesome photographer in the Chicago area, check him out!) for some shared food and fun. I know people have mixed feelings when it comes to shared plate restaurants. The concept of sharing can be tough for some people; sometimes you just want to order something for yourself! However, when I’m dining somewhere new/I’m out of town, I do enjoy the ability to order a large amount of items to sample. We were able to try quite a few things off the menu that evening…and I WISH I could continue to sample every single item…if only I lived in town! To make decisions on the food, we all took turns selecting something off the menu

We started with a bowl of pork fried almonds with rosemary and garlic (selected by my dad). I already have plans to attempt a recreation at home in my kitchen: it was so simple, yet absolutely delicious!


Justin’s pick was the prosciutto escarole bread balls. Deep fried balls of salty pork? Um…yes please. Such a tasty bite!

We sampled two different spreads/smears that evening: my mom selected the whipped feta with cucumbers. It was served with slices of thick sliced grilled bread. The feta paired with the chopped cucumber was fresh and delicious! I’m a fan of Greek food, so this was a treat.

The other smear we sampled was my personal pick from the menu: the eggplant caponata with goat cheese. Be still, my heart. This was hands down my favorite nosh of the evening. If you go to The Purple Pig to dine, do yourself a favor and order this dish. The thick sliced bread (same as the whipped feta) was spread very generously with herbed goat cheese, and we were presented with a bowl of eggplant caponata on the side to scoop on top. The combination of the crusty bread with the creamy goat cheese would have been amazing by itself, but the caponata took it to another level of amazingness. I’m contemplating driving straight back to Chicago just to eat this again. Drool.

Next up: the braised baby artichokes with fingerling potatoes, asiago cheese, and salami toscana. The dish is served cold, and the textures/flavor combination is really special. There’s a slight tang from the dressing, there’s some spice from the salami, and the potatoes mixed with the artichokes are such a nice pairing.

The prosciutto crusted cobia with Venus clams and green beans was such a gorgeous plate! I only had a small bite of this one, but I loved the pairing of prosciutto with fish – I don’t think I’ve tasted something like it before!

…and now on to the most adventurous dish of the evening. Steve chose to order sweetbreads for the table. I can honestly say that I have heard about sweetbreads, I’ve thought about sweetbreads, but I have never actually ordered them (or, heck, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen them on a menu before). I was really excited to try something new. A few years ago, there would be no way in the world that you would have convinced me to take a bite (by the way: sweetbreads are thymus glands), but I was ready and willing to have a new taste experience! And may I say: sweetbreads are actually pretty darn tasty! They were fried crisp on the outside, and the inside pretty much melted in your mouth. Now, I might not order sweetbreads every single time I see them on a menu, but this sharing plate was perfect for this adventure!

Even though we were STUFFED at this point in the meal, we could not resist ordering a few desserts for sharing. The choices were a no-brainer. The panino con Nutella was up first: it was a sweet sandwich filled with Nutella, marshmallow creme, and bananas. Then, it was sprinkled generously with powdered sugar. YUMMMM!

I wanted to fight everyone else off with the final dessert: I really wanted it all to myself. We had our eye on the Sicilian Iris since the beginning of the night when a couple sitting nearby ordered one. It was magnificent: a ricotta cheese and chocolate chip filled brioche donut. Again, it was sprinkled with powdered sugar. Glorious. So amazing. Note: the Sicilian Iris is quite large; about the size of a grapefruit – it only looks petite because the knife was in the foreground.

So, are you ready to head to Chicago to eat at The Purple Pig yet? Who wants to take a road trip with me?

What would you most like to try off of The Purple Pig’s menu?

The Purple Pig on Urbanspoon