February/March Book Club Review

March 13, 2012 at 2:50 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

Yours truly was in charge of the E-vites for our February Book Club, which means that it was my decision whether or not to call on account of bad weather a few weeks ago.  I fell victim to the hype that the news was spewing and cancelled on a night that was supposed to produce half a foot of snow and horrible, awful driving conditions.  In actuality, we received a bit of rain/slush and that was about it so I looked like a fool for pushing our date back, but oh well.  The cancellation caused our next meeting to take place in the first week of March, hence the combo this time around.

More like The Neverending Story

I also happened to be the one to suggest our book of the month, The Adventures of Augie March.  I can tell you right now, I batted a big whopping zero in this department as well.

I chose the book because I had read that the story of a young man growing up on the streets of Chicago during the Depression was both interesting and entertaining and it wound up being neither.  What it was was long, boring, dense and difficult to even force yourself to try to read.  This was a book that the City of Chicago used in a city-wide book club (another reason I chose it was because there were like a bajillion copies in the libraries) but I would be shocked if more than 2 people read the thing in its entirety.  As for the ladies in our book club, a few of them didn’t get past the first 20 pages and those that did didn’t make it much further than that.  I read the most of anyone in the meeting (I felt like I had to punish myself some way for the choice) and I didn’t even make it half way.  And I really did try.

Until I lost the book, that is.

Let me preface this by saying I’ve never lost a library book, ever.  Until this behemoth, at least.  When I took the Megabus home a few weeks ago to visit my mom, I had the book in tow.  I read some of it Friday evening before falling asleep on the bus and then didn’t really think about it again until I was packing up to come back to Chicago on Sunday, when I realized I couldn’t find the damn thing (it was a busy weekend and I didn’t have much time for leisure reading).  While it’s possible that someone sneaked into my mom’s house with the sole purpose of stealing this book, chances are I just left it on the bus and didn’t realize it for days because I wasn’t that invested in it to begin with.  And as anyone who’s ever ridden the Megabus can tell you, if you lose something you’re pretty much screwed.  So the book is gone and I had to pay the library to replace it, which was frustrating because it’s not like anyone is going to read it anyway.

But I digress.

We ate at Anna Maria Pasteria and I had as much fun at dinner as I do while saying the name of this Italian eatery.  Of course, I always have fun with the book club girls so I guess that’s not a shocker, especially considering the half priced bottles of wine we indulged in.  To be completely honest though, I felt the place was a tad overpriced for what it was.  My spinach stuffed cheese tortellini was delicious and all but I think I’ve had better pasta for cheaper in the city.  The ambiance was cozy and had an authentic feel though so I’m glad I gave it a whirl.  Also being seated by Maria of Anna Maria Pasteria gave me a bit of a kick.

Even though it was delayed and provided dismal reading material, I think the evening was a success.  At least everyone had a good sense of humor about the book, although I banned myself from choosing our next one.  I’m a little disappointed that I don’t know what happened to Augie March but since I’m not invested enough to go check it out again, that will remain one of my life’s little mysteries.  Like what happens to my socks in the dryer.

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Ho Ho Ho

December 22, 2011 at 8:43 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Is it Christmas already?  Well, it’s close.  This has been a whirlwind past 7 days full of work bar outings, friends’ birthday parties, a walk through with my coordinator of the tour I put together for the Field Museum (she loved it and I even taught her something she didn’t know!), apartment cleaning, shopping, gift wrapping, more shopping, Home Alone watching, anniversaries and the birthday of my boyfriend.  Not to mention the craziness at work, as a HUGE project I’m in charge of will be launching January 2nd and December 22nd (today!) is my last day in the office until that launch date.  Thank you, unpaid vacation time that my office is making me take.  Not that I’m really complaining because the idea of having the next 10 days off to go home and spend time with my awesome family and friends makes it all worthwhile.  It would just be better if I were getting paid for it.  Regardless, I haven’t spent 5 nights in a row at home since…well, I’m pretty sure since high school, so this will be an experience.  And the boyfriend will be with me the entire time so it will be a test of his endurance as well.  I hope he can handle it because he’s my only ride.

So my creative juices aren’t really flowing today since I have so much else on my mind.  This is a pretty lackluster post; my apologies.  I had a long-haired, greasy looking fellow give me a business card in the elevator at work this morning for his Ozzy Osbourne cover band, so that was sort of exciting.  Gross, but entertaining nonetheless.

I won’t miss this place over the next 10 days.

I’m not sure what the holidays hold for you and yours but I hope you find happiness and joy somewhere along the way.  Don’t be a Scrooge and try to remember the reason for the season – food.  Or wine, I’m not sure which.  Whatever it is, I hope it’s merry!

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October Book Club

November 2, 2011 at 10:33 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

The ladies and I managed to gather again last week for an evening of wine, books and chatter.  We had two new girls join the group so it was nice to see our numbers swell a little and I’m pretty sure they’ll both be back!  Five of us met at Calo Ristorante, an Italian place not too far from my apartment.  I’d never been and the decor was a little fancier than what I was used to for our book club shenanigans but the prices were reasonable and the wine was cheap so my worries were for nothing.  I ordered the vegetable pasta in marinara sauce and it was quite good.

Not exactly what I was expecting but interesting nonetheless

There was asparagus, zucchini, squash, tomatoes and a bunch of other delicious veggies that I can’t seem to recall right now and they were perfect in the sauce.  There were two kinds of house bread served, one with garlic and one with cheese, and while I probably had too much of each of them it was totally worth it.  Pairing it all with a nice red wine made for quite a hearty meal.

The book we read was Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.  I’d been wanting to read some of his stuff for a while and actually suggested the book myself.

Which was why I was a little confused when I picked it up from the library and saw it was a graphic novel.  I’m flexible so I rolled with it and then lent it to a friend who was one of the new club additions.  After we both finished it, we realized that it is actually a novel novel and the graphic novel was just an adaptation.  Which made a lot of sense because while what we read was entertaining, it felt like it was lacking significant depth.  Well, duh.  So we missed out on the novel but were able to have a new perspective on the book from the drawings in the graphic novel.  I’d actually like to go back and read the entire book now to make some sense of everything but I’ve got such a to-do reading list that I’m not sure I’ll get around to it anytime soon.

As always, the conversation was lively and just what I needed to round out a Thursday night.  We typically chat about what’s been going on in our own lives for a while and then (of course) talk about the book.  It’s a good time every month and something I always look forward to.  Our next meeting is also at a place near my apartment (read: within stumbling distance) and the book isn’t available in graphic novel form so I should be on the same page (oh how I hate this saying) as everyone else.

We make reading look cool!

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August Book Club

August 30, 2011 at 9:12 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

It’s been a while since we had our book club outing, mostly because summer is a hard time to track down such busy ladies.  We managed to get together for a couple of hours last Thursday and it was an evening of food, wine and literary talk that was more than a little needed.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to talk much about the actual book.  Our club is in dire need of new members since a couple moved and a few quit showing up, so it was just going to be the four of us as it was.  Then one lady got stuck at work and myself and another showed up incredibly late (stupid buses during rush hour that have to stop every two seconds) but the three of us eventually found each other and caught up over a glass of wine.  By the time we got around to discussing the book, it was clear that one girl hadn’t finished and the other had barely gotten started.  Eh, it’s what happens when the weather turns nice.

I never did figure out what the rose had to do with it

Now I read this months ago when we first tried to plan our summer meeting and since then my brain has been fried by Moby Dick so I barely even remembered it myself.  I do remember that we read The Postmistress by Sarah Blake, which is a novel that tells the stories of a handful of women right before WWII broke out.  One woman is reporting on the war from the trenches of Europe, one discovers she’s pregnant right as she sends her doctor husband to London to help with bomb victims and one woman is in charge of a post office in a small town where all three women somehow manage to connect.  I thought it was interesting, especially because the characters have no idea of the depth of the atrocities going on in the war and it really shows the confusion and ignorance that was probably evident in the Americans on the brink of war.  The book wasn’t exactly an upper but it did make me think and I was glad I read it.  And there was no giant white and evil whale so that was nice.

We ate at Crust, a pizza place that was ironically where we met on my very first night of book club ever, more than two years ago.  I had a spinach and goat cheese calzone that went nicely with my glass of Pinot Grigio and the pizzas that the other gals got looked equally delicious.  We sat on the patio and enjoyed the fresh air while I was reminded that the time to do so is dwindling (I had to wear a sweater last night.  Not okay).  Even though we didn’t get much chatter in revolving around the book, we had good conversations anyway and even had a brief photo shoot because one of the girls needed a new pic for her online dating profile (this was after I disclosed that the new bf and I met on the ‘net).  I left the restaurant full and looking forward to our next book and even managed to get home before some rain hit.  I’m glad we got back in the book club groove and I’m bringing a friend to the next meeting so we’ll have another member soon.

But really, I’m just glad to be reading anything other than Moby Dick.  Like the back of a shampoo bottle or the ads on the train.

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Dinner Party

August 18, 2011 at 9:04 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , )

Last night, I had two lovely lady friends over for dinner and drinks.  My picture of the meal didn’t turn out how I wanted but I’m going to describe it here anyway because it was quick, easy and delicious.  We had:

That's what I did

  • Pita bread with two types of hummus (pesto/basil and sun-dried tomato for the extremely curious)
  • Vegetables roasted with a balsamic vinaigrette
  • Mashed potatoes with garlic, red pepper, Parmesan cheese, basil and oregano
  • Veggie burgers with spinach and pepper-jack cheese

This dinner was brought to you by Trader Joe’s.  Seriously, everything we wound up with came from there in one way or another.  And while the vegetables was/are amazing and seemingly fancy, I should admit that I simply heated them up out of the frozen bag they came in.  Still totally worth it.  The veggie burgers were tossed on the George Foreman to perfectly toast the bread and melt the cheese and then we sat down to feast.  Paired with a couple of bottles of wine and some entertaining conversation, our dinner was a great way to end a Wednesday night.  I was excited for some leftovers today but sadly, nothing made it out of my kitchen uneaten.  I guess that’s a sign they liked it?

I’ve said this before but I really enjoy this whole having-a-kitchen-with-counter-space thing!

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Let the Summerfests Begin!

June 14, 2011 at 12:04 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

I love Chicago summerfests.  Streets sectioned off so people can stand around, drink booze, listen to music, eat fried foods and check out local vendors…how does it get any better than that?

On Sunday, my two aforementioned friends who were visiting for the weekend decided to take another friend of mine, whose birthday it happened to be, to the festival in a neighborhood just blocks from my own.

You may not see me, but I was there

Andersonville is a ‘hood I haven’t had much time to yet check out so this was the perfect opportunity to play in the street and learn more about where I now live.  We wandered through cute clothing, antique, toy, kitchen and jewelery shops as we wove through the vendors and food booths and even the crowds of people, dogs and strollers didn’t get in our way.  We got lucky and the weather was the nicest day of the weekend so the huge cookie dough sundae that the Birthday Girl and I split was easily enjoyed.  As was the sangria, fried pickle spears, sweet potato fries, beer and falafel.  Not that I tried all of that….okay who am I kidding.  Of course I did.  It’s not like this is the time of year I should be worried about fitting into a swimsuit or anything.

Oh wait.

Anyway, the festival made me appreciate once again my newer, better living locale.  I thought about going to this fest last year but it would’ve required 2 bus rides and 45 minutes of my precious time just to get there.  A short not-even ten minute walk was so, so much better.  Just makes me even more excited to wander all over this place during the next few months and see what the other streetfests have to offer!

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May Book Club Review

May 19, 2011 at 10:34 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

I was here

Our book club numbers have sadly been dwindling lately, as it seems everyone has gotten busier than we anticipated.  Last week there were a whopping three of us who showed up for our monthly meeting but in some ways that was kind of nice.  We met at La Creperie and it was my first time visiting the French-styled bistro restaurant.  If you don’t know much about crepes…well, you should.  They’re pretty amazing.  They’re typically made in both sweet and savory varieties, with the sweet being more like a dessert and the savory more like an entrée.  I split the Ratatouille savory crepe with one of the book club ladies and she had the brilliance to add in a bit of goat cheese to the standard zucchini, eggplant, onion, peppers and tomatoes.  It was delicious.  We then split a sweet crepe stuffed with banana and Nutella, which was equally as delicious though in a very different way.  Throw in a warm spring day, large glass of wine, book, good company and the obligatory guy playing an accordion in the courtyard and you’ve got quite the night.

Speaking of books, there was some literary discussion as well.  We read Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.  It’s about twins who

Two thumbs up

are the product of an Indian nun mother and British surgeon father.  They grow up in Ethiopia and the story chronicles their lives from birth (literally) to death.  It was a little longer than what we typically read for book club so I had to up my speed reader skills just a bit, but in the end I was glad I did.  While it was a little difficult to get into immediately, I found myself totally immersed in the story before I knew it.  I laughed, I cried and it was one of those books that I simultaneously didn’t want to end but was in a hurry to finish.  Some of the historical bits were a little confusing though, mostly because my knowledge of the political history of Ethiopia is pretty much nonexistent.  Since the entire novel took place in or around hospitals, there were also more than a few terms and descriptions that were a bit over my head.  All in all though, this is one of those books that I think I’ll be reading again.

Speaking of hospitals, Dad’s still on the mend.  We’re still waiting on all results to come back but my sister will be flying down there today and I’ll be down there in two weeks.  Not exactly the circumstances I’d like for a visit but I’m already ready to go!

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What Kind of Cookery is This?

March 30, 2011 at 1:58 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

Time for another quick and easy recipe that is in no way representative of what would actually be on a respected food blog anywhere on the internet!

This meal was prepared a few weeks ago with a friend of mine.  After another typical Wednesday helping out at the food pantry, it was late and I was tired when I got home.  Luckily I had great company and a little bit of homemade wine (thanks to my uncle!) to help me make it through the rest of the night.

Should've included the wok in the photo...stupid hindsight

As you can see, it was a stir-fry kind of night.

In the interest of full disclosure, the veggies came in a stir-fry “kit” from Aldi’s.  Basically it was a ton of frozen vegetables with a packet of sauce, but for the $2.99 price tag I’d say it more than delivered.  I wound up with 6 helpings of the stir fry (read: leftovers) and luckily the stuff held in the fridge rather well.  The vegetarian pot stickers came from Whole Foods but you could find them just about anywhere too.  The potstickers went in the oven to bake while the veggies were tossed into my wok, and a mere 10 minutes later my dinner was born!  I usually add some noodle to the mix but as the contents of my pantry slowly dwindles, I made do with what I had.

The wok (something I may or may not have blogged about in the past) was a wedding gift to my parents that I got in the divorce.  I love it and when I move into my new apartment with actual counter space I hope to use it much more.  It helped turn a mundane Wednesday night into a party in my mouth but not everyone was invited.  However, you can create your own delectable meal using these tools and ingredients any time you want – and if you’re feeling lazy, just let me know and I’ll whip it up in my wok.

Wok and roll!

Yes, I went there.

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March Monday Madness

March 15, 2011 at 12:32 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

As I mentioned in my last post, I signed my lease on my new apartment yesterday.  In a shocking display of ambition, I also did quite a few other things that had been hanging over my head.  Because I’m just so gosh darn proud of myself, I figured I should document it here:

  • I finished my taxes!  Though I’m still not entirely certain I did them right, they’ve been accepted by the IRS and my refund is pending.

    I seriously love getting to check things off my list

    Woohoo for free money I’ve already paid for!

  • I finished my freelance writing assignments for the month and sent them off.
  • I cleaned out under my bed.  This was huge and something I’d been meaning to do for roughly 1.5 years.  Because I’m so excited about my move, I’ve decided to tackle my apartment a little at a time and the bed was on the list for this week.  I found all kinds of things I’d long since hidden – college research and papers, random photos, love letters from loves gone by and a flashlight I thought I’d lost.  I also found lots of cat hair that Catsby hid too, so that was awesome.  I managed to get rid of 1.5 boxes of stuff and condense just about everything else.
  • Speaking of the flashlight, besides finding what I assumed was long gone, I was able to locate some AAA batteries and get it up and working.  Which came in handy because my power was out this morning (story for another day).
  • I removed a piece of broken furniture from my room and took it to the dumpster.  It’s not horribly busted so hopefully someone will take it and give it a loving home but it was time for it to move on out of my bedroom.
  • I was in the process of removing what I thought was a broken lamp when inspiration struck and I managed to fix it – all by myself!  This is a favorite lamp of mine (it’s in the shape of a monkey, so of course it has a special place in my heart) and it had been broken (or so I stupidly thought) for months.  That means for months I’ve been using my cell phone to read in bed at night.  Well, apparently I’m a rather large idiot because it wasn’t that difficult to fix once I really looked at it.  That’s when I  said, “Let there be light!”
  • I cleaned my bathroom.
  • I talked to a great friend of mine for the first time in what felt like forever and we got nice and caught up.
  • I finished a bottle of wine.

So that last one might not be a huge accomplishment but after everything else I did yesterday (including working my regularly scheduled 8 hours) I felt it was much deserved.

I won’t be near as productive this evening but I will be getting a private tour of the Shedd Aquarium as the last class in the first of 3 courses I’m taking draws to a close.

*Insert joke about Chicago gangsters helping people sleep with the fishes here*.

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This is Halloween

October 19, 2010 at 6:24 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

So, I kinda forgot to blog about the pumpkin I carved a few weeks ago.  I was reminded of pumpkins by my Halloween dream last night, in which I dressed up as the Octomom and received many compliments on my outfit.  The outfit included little pumpkins dressed as children, which was both weird and eerie.  I don’t know why I dressed as Octomom because frankly that woman offends just about every sense I have and I would never incorporate her likeness into a costume.  Ever.

And now I’m off track.  Anyway, here’s the 2nd pumpkin I’ve ever carved:




In case you can’t exactly tell, it’s a scarecrow with a crow on its arm.  I used a stencil from a book of 8 that I bought at the dollar store and even though it wasn’t entirely original, I was pleased with how it turned out.  It didn’t take as long as I thought it would and I was finished with it before my yearly viewing of Hocus Pocus was over.


"Don't get your knickers in a twist! We're just three kindly old spinster ladies."

Remember the picture I posted of the pumpkin patch?  Yeah, that place was manned by one of the creepiest, most stereotypically strange guys I’ve ever met.  He had long, stringy hair, was pudgy around the middle and slightly dirty with eyes that never seemed to focus on the same thing.  He was standing outside of the entire fenced in pumpkin patch when I walked up and as he followed me through the gate I simultaneously realized I was the only one there and he was silently following me.  Realizing this is how every bad horror movie starts out, I mentally mapped out my exit strategy in case things got ugly.  I wandered around for a while and he only spoke when I asked a question.  Since my pumpkin queries weren’t too extensive (they were brought in from Wisconsin and he was living in the trailer on the rear of the lot), we quickly ran out of things to talk about.  Luckily the friend I was meeting showed up a little later and we were able to pick our favorites and head on back out the gate.  She agreed he was slightly off but I’ll tell you this – he gave us a deal on our pumpkins.  He’s still at California and Addison if you’re interested.


So we carved and watched Bette Midler for a while and then I accidentally kicked over some red wine when we turned out the lights to take our pics.  That was not fun and I ruined my stencil book, though since it only cost a buck I didn’t bother to cry over my spilled vino.  I was quite happy with my entire pumpkin carving process – and then roughly a week later it was rotted and disgusting.  My poor scarecrow was tossed with the trash (the things I would do for a compost heap…) and now I’m stuck with an empty windowsill two weeks before the big candy giving day.  I knew it wouldn’t last the month but I was hoping to have a little more time before it was all over.  Looks like my loner buddy on the lot might get to stand awkwardly around me once again.

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