A Bang of a Weekend

July 7, 2016 at 2:25 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

My mom and sister came to visit over the Fourth of July and we had an absolute blast, pun intended. We managed to visit some of the biggest tourist destinations in the city (i.e. The Field Museum and Navy Pier…hell, we even took a water taxi from one to the other), enjoyed third-row seats at Wrigley Field to watch as the Cubs beat the Reds, ooh’d and aah’d at a scary and death-defying fireworks show basically in my backyard, ate a ton of delicious food and drank lots of delicious beverages and watched a couple of movies (To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar and Independance Day, respectively…we have diverse tastes. And Patrick Swayze has great gams). We even got our nails done! As always, their visit was a great one and over much too short even though they were here almost five days.

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Perfect!

It’s always really hard to say goodbye to my family when we part ways but I’m so, so thankful for the fun times we had. I really value our quality time and the fact that sometimes we can give each other shit face-to-face versus via text or over the phone. Because sharing is caring, right? Plus, we couldn’t be too sad when we departed because I’ll be home again in about two months. For my bridal shower.

In other news – holy crap I’m getting married in less than four months! And since I didn’t burst into flames while typing that, I guess it’s meant to be. Look out married bliss, here I come!

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Galena Getaway

January 12, 2016 at 12:34 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

Scott and I spent last weekend in a little town about three hours from Chicago and it was awesome. We needed a weekend getaway since we haven’t traveled anywhere alone (without visiting family) in YEARS. Saving for a wedding and honeymoon will put a damper on big travel plans, let me tell you! Luckily, though, this town was close enough to be doable and far enough to feel like someplace entirely new. Which it was. And it actually felt farther away than it really was because we hit intense fog on our drive through these rural, curvy roads and had to take our time. But we eventually made it to and the fog lifted, both metaphorically and physically speaking!

 

Good, cold fun!

Galena is cool because it’s really historic and on Saturday Scott suggested a tour President Ulysses S. Grant’s former home. Clearly he gets me. We learned a lot while walking through the little mini-museum and shared mutual appreciation for indoor plumbing after seeing their chamber pots. We also spent a good deal of time wandering the downtown streets and doing some shopping while enjoying various foods and beverages (including at a local brewery!) along the way. Our resort was really nice too (thanks, Groupon!) and had a few different restaurants/lounges for us to choose from, as well as a pool that we did not use because the thought of putting on a swimsuit when it was 20 degrees outside wasn’t exactly appealing. Shocker.

We managed to do some walking of the grounds too but by Saturday evening the already chilly temperatures dropped and it was COLD. So we enjoyed some free cable in the room and binged on snacks and drinks while having a slumber party. Jumping on the beds may have happened too, because that’s just how good grown-ups roll!

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Holiday Recap

December 2, 2015 at 3:41 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

This time last week, I was enjoying sunshine and temperatures in the 80’s. Today I walked to work in a snowstorm. This time last week I was eating every single thing put in front of my face. Today I’m utilizing a new food/exercise tracker and imputing everything I eat.

Have we invented time travel yet?

No matter. My Thanksgiving was another one for the books and I was lucky in that no one shoved anyone else into the bayou and that there were enough Thanksgiving leftovers for two additional meals (for yours truly…I don’t know what anyone else ate).

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If I ever shot something that was alive I think I would throw up

My trip to Louisiana included:

  • touring the historic Point Coupee Museum (all two rooms of it)
  • purchasing pecans from the factory where they’re shelled
  • shooting four different types of guns at a plastic gopher target in the middle of nowhere
  • eating an obscene amount of food
  • drinking an obscene amount of wine
  • drinking a beer at a bar called Fluidz
  • NOT getting drunk in New Orleans – a Thanksgiving miracle!
  • eating a decidedly non-vegetarian raw oyster to get my sister to buy me a few also decidedly expensive drinks
  • almost vomiting up said oyster and reinforcing my vegetarian ideals
  • seriously raw oysters taste like chewy snot
  • finding a vegetarian hot dog place in New Orleans and having a giant fauxdog even though I wasn’t even hungry – just excited to see it existing
  • nearly bearing witness to a shooting on Bourbon Street
  • NOT trying to fly out of the wrong airport like my sister (sorry, sis)

All in all it was another successful trip and I’m extremely thankful for the time spent with loved ones. And food. Did I mention how much I ate? I’m also thankful for a strong stomach and now that I’ve returned to reality, my gym membership. Bring on the Christmas cookies!

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August Book Club Review

August 22, 2014 at 1:04 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

It’s been a little while since I’ve done one of these!

On Sunday, the girls came over to my place for some potluck/BYOB Book Club action. The original plan was to eat and drink before walking to a nearby comedy show but in the end we just ate and drank. And it was a blast! I always have such fun with these gals, although it was rough waking up on Monday morning after all the wine we downed Sunday night.  I guess there’s a reason we usually stick to Thursday or Friday for our meetings!

Not Into the Woods, as I misspelled on the invite to Book Club. Because that’s a musical.

The book we read was In the Woods by Tana French, which was a murder/crime/whodunit novel set in Ireland. The story revolves around two detectives, one of whom was the victim of some mysterious potential crime when he was a child. He had been playing in some nearby woods with two friends when they disappeared – the detective was found alone, clutching a tree, shoes full of blood and no recollection of anything that happened. So he grows up, moves away, changes his name and becomes a detective. Then he and his partner get called back to his hometown to investigate the murder of a young girl, not too far from where his old friends disappeared.

Intriguing enough premise and I did like the story but *SPOILER ALERT* they never find out what happened to those damn kids! The murder of the little girl is solved but I wanted to know what happened to the detective’s friends. His character was written really well and it was easy to kind of detest him while also understanding where he was coming from but he ended up treating his partner (and former best friend) like crap and that pissed me off. Though I guess if a fictional character has the ability to make me mad that means the author was doing something right. Anyway, it was a thicker book but I flew through it and enjoyed it for the most part. Just wish there had been some happier resolution at the end but life doesn’t always have a nice tidy ending so I suppose I can forgive it. Still would’ve liked to know what happened to those kids though!

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Foodie Friday

August 23, 2013 at 1:46 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

I mentioned earlier this week how happy I was with my recent decision to have brunch at Tweet and I stand by that.  I was in the mood for some veggie-friendly biscuits and gravy and that’s not always an easy and close find at 8:30 in the morning.  I used some handy Yelp reviews and came up with this place, which was actually just a short bike ride away.

Great, now I want to lick my computer screen.

Great, now I want to lick my computer screen.

Tweet is attached to a space that transforms into a gay bar at night so the decor inside is kitschy, campy and fun.  We managed to get some outdoor seating and when we sat down we enjoyed some cornbread that was placed on the table as a treat.  The menu is really large and has tons of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options so everyone can find something they love.  There were lots of families with adorable babies and people with puppies so the setting was pleasant, even though Scott called me out on my biological clock when I was making faces at one of the kids.

I did manage to get my biscuits and gravy and it was the best breakfast I’ve had in recent memory.  It came topped with two eggs and two veggie-sausage patties, not to mention a tomato slice and side of hash browns.  It was just the thing my slightly-hungover self needed and I ate every bite.  Scott ordered some veggie-rice dish with eggs and he loved his too, especially since he got to use his chopsticks skills.  He had enough leftover to have another meal but I devoured mine and had to refrain from eating the plate.

It’s easy to get into a habit when it comes to good restaurants in the city, especially since we don’t allow ourselves to go out too much.  If we know something is good it makes sense to play it safe but I need to remember that in such a big place, there are TONS of establishments worthy of our dollar.  I’m so glad we gave this place a shot and I’m already looking forward to our next visit!

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Foodie Friday

June 7, 2013 at 11:29 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

I love pizza.  As in, could eat it every day and never really grow tired of it.  This is a good thing since I live in Chicago but it’s also a bad thing because I’m not rich and I don’t want to weigh 500lbs.  So what’s a girl to do?

Make her own!

When my latest craving hit, I raided the fridge and was happy to see that I could satisfy my urges without going to the grocery or spending a dime.  I had some flat bread, which I lightly covered with olive oil before placing on my baking stone.  I spread some marinara sauce over the entire portion, then added the toppings.  I had a little bit of feta and some parmesan/asiago that was ready to go so that went down first.  I added some shredded kale, banana peppers and some veggie crushed Italian sausage, then stuck in the oven on Broil for about 12 minutes.  Then, I ate!

PizzaPizza

PizzaPizza

It was really good though the bread I used wasn’t too sturdy so I ended up folding a lot of it and then shoving it in my mouth.  Other than buying stronger bread that will support all the stuff I loaded on top of it, I don’t think I’d change this recipe much.  Of course, just about anything can be added to a pizza, as long as it sounds good.  So get creative and make your own!

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A Place at the Table

May 31, 2013 at 12:34 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

Last night, Scott and I joined members of our community for a documentary screening at the food pantry where I volunteer.  The pantry itself is run out of the basement of a church and the movie was held in the church itself.  Besides it being a little surreal for this recovering Catholic to be eating popcorn and drinking soda while sitting in a pew before the altar, the event went really well.  The documentary was absolutely eye-opening and something everyone should see.

A Place at the Table tells the stories of three different Americans who deal with food insecurity and hunger on a daily basis.  One of the stories follows a young woman who is a single mother raising two children in Philadelphia.  The other shows a young girl in Mississippi whose heavy weight causes health problems and the other highlights a different young girl in Colorado whose family struggles to fill their plates.  The whole documentary describes how over 40 million people in America don’t have enough to eat and how much of what is being eaten can’t exactly be considered nutritious.  It shows how food deserts impact communities, because these small towns are too far off the beaten trail for produce trucks to make deliveries.  Families having to drive 30-40 minutes each way for a vegetable other than a banana isn’t unheard of and we are given the depressing fact that nearly 1 of every 2 children in the country will use food assistance at some point in their childhoods.  It’s a stark look at what life is like for far too many people and it’s a wake up call to those of us who have it better.

Food for thought

There are many factors that go into this and some of it doesn’t appear to make much sense.  For instance, how can Mississippi be both the state that has the highest amount of food insecurity yet also be the most overweight?  Well, if you look at what people are eating, you’ll find your answer.  As you can see, it’s much cheaper to buy 3,000 calories worth of soda and chips than it is to buy that fill of fruits and vegetables, and the poverty that many in the nation are facing makes it damn near impossible for them to afford healthy foods.  They showed footage from Top Chef, where the contestants were asked to make a lunch for schoolchildren using the amount of money that schools typically receive from the government.  In one meal, over two pounds of sugar was used because it was the cheapest thing to cook with – fruits were out of the question because they were too expensive.  Government subsidies, education, food stamps (now known as SNAP) eligibility requirements…there are many reasons that we have this current situation on our hands.  This documentary shows how all of these things work together to create a perfect storm that is causing us to raise a generation that will be sicker and live a shorter lifespan than their parents – which is the first time in generations that this is the case.

The whole issue is overwhelming and it’s hard to know how to help.  I’ve been volunteering with the pantry for almost four years and we’ve seen the need for supplemental food sources increase, not decrease.  The best thing I can think to do is to make others aware that there are people – who could be living down the street or in the apartment next door – who are starving.  In America.  It’s insane to think about and Jeff Bridges (who, besides being the namesake for our cat The Dude, founded the End Hunger Network in 1984 and supported the filming of this documentary) says that if another country were doing this to our children, we’d be at war.  Instead, we’re in denial.  If you want to do something, you can start by watching this documentary (available through Netflix).  It’s definitely worth your time.

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April Book Club Review

April 26, 2013 at 11:57 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

And then there were three.

We initially had six book club members RSVP as a ‘Yes’ for this month’s meeting but when the day arrived, half of them

Her arms are much hairier in real life.

had to bow out at the last minute.  Which kind of sucked, of course, but sometimes the smaller meetings are a little less chaotic.  We met at Quartino, which is an Italian restaurant that’s downtown.  The place was really big and they had an even more spacious upstairs, which was kind of surprising.  Also surprising was the fact that the whole place was packed.  I guess Thursday nights are the new Fridays but they entire restaurant was buzzing and bustling.  It made it a little hard to hear each other but it was a fun environment so it ended up working out.  The three of us also met at basically the same time, which was nice because we could be seated right away.  I was starving so I appreciated that!

The bread they served was really good and I had to pace myself so as to not gobble it all up right away.  While most items looked great, all three of us opted for different pizzas.  They all wound up being vegetarian so we swapped some pieces and each one was good-looking and tasty.  I had some leftovers and the girls laughed at me when I busted out the tupperware I had carried my lunch to work in to box up my remaining slices.  Secretly, I think they were jealous and I couldn’t help but find amusement with just how much I’m becoming like my mother.

The book we read for the month was Bossypants by Tina Fey.  It was an entertaining, lighthearted, quick and easy read that literally everyone enjoyed (for real – all those who wound up canceling made sure to mention that!).  It sounds like of cheesy but I came away from the book feeling like Tina Fey was my new BFF.  It helped that a lot of it took place in Chicago so I felt familiar to begin with.  Also, her stories are self-deprecating and autobiographical, just the way I like them.  I feel like I could write something similar but no one would buy a book about my life because…well, I’m not Tina Fey.  Or famous in general.  Yet!

 

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Fun and Fancy Free

February 13, 2013 at 10:59 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , )

Who doesn’t love free stuff?  Perhaps Bill Gates or Donald Trump don’t search out great deals but most everyone I know loves a freebie.  And luckily for me, this week has been full of them!

I love free stuff!

I love free stuff!

I guess technically my streak started on Friday and Saturday, since I got those weird free issues of Forbes (thankfully, no more since then).  However since I didn’t really want them, I’m not counting it.  Officially (in my book), things began on Sunday when I went to the annual Volunteer Brunch for the food pantry I help out at.   It was held at an Irish restaurant and the food was delicious, as always.  I enjoyed fruit, pancakes, eggs, potatoes, muffins and some more fruit, all without shelling out dime.  Then on Monday a coworker gave me a Valentine’s Day cookie she made over the weekend.  It looks store bought (as you can see for yourself) and tasted better than most anything I could have purchased.  She also used the healthiest ingredients possible so I feel just a tad less guilty for enjoying it so much!

Tuesday started off with another free treat as the Corner Bakery, Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks have all been handing out free beverages in the lobby of our building this week.  It’s a “sweet treat” also in honor of Valentine’s Day and I’m not complaining.  I would’ve grabbed something Monday morning but my train ran a little late and I didn’t have the time; however, I made up for that yesterday and today.  I nabbed a delicious hot chocolate yesterday morning and it was one of the very last they had left, so it was extra chocolate-y since it had been at the bottom of their thermos.

Last night, Scott and I went to a couples massage class at a local massage therapist’s office to learn some techniques and strategies for good, old-fashioned back rubbing.  It was all PG, I promise.  We, along with a few other couples besides ourselves, picked up some good tips in the hour and a half long class, all for the low low price of nothing.  Again, score!

Today I managed to get a free Starbucks hot tea from the gal in the lobby (though to be completely honest, it was kind of gross).  Then my lovely coworker gave me another heart-shaped cookie, which is definitely not so gross.  All in all, not a bad haul for it being only Wednesday!  Now if only I could somehow manage to get a free envelope containing hundred dollar bills…

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Soup’s On!

January 24, 2013 at 12:09 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

In an effort to stay warm during this cold snap and also in an effort to kick the ass of the cold that tried to attack me earlier this week, I’ve been eating a lot of soup.  Like, a lot.  I even made some on my own in my handy-dandy crock pot and it turned out so well I figured I might as well share.  And it was so easy!

Crock pots are wonderful because you can just throw everything in, turn it on and go to sleep (which is exactly what I did on Tuesday night).  I always forget how simple it is to cook in a crock pot but this was a good reminder.  To get started, I raided the fridge, freezer and cabinet and grabbed anything that looked halfway decent.  You can do the same, or just use what I did:

  • vegetable broth

    Campbell's has nothing on me.

    Campbell’s has nothing on me.

  • spinach
  • frozen leeks
  • two cans of vegetable lentil soup
  • one can of black beans
  • frozen vegetables from a bag
  • vegetarian Italian sausage
  • pre-cooked quinoa

Every single thing on my list is available at Trader Joe’s, in case you’re curious/hungry/cheap like me.  Anyway, I really just dumped all this into the crock pot, turned it on for 8 hrs and walked away.  When I woke up in the morning my entire apartment smelled delicious and I brought some with me to lunch for the day.  And not to brag or anything, but this was the best damn soup I’ve ever made.  Maybe the best soup that anyone, ever, has ever made, anywhere.  Or maybe not, but it was still very good.

However, it does not look good when it leaks out of its container in your bag onto the ass of the jeans that you brought with you to wear out after work.  In that case, it looks like someone had an accident and needs a diaper.  Just letting you know.

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