My friend Jessie, who I've mentioned on here several times as my amazing baker friend, hosted a lunch on Sunday for a very small group of us in her beautiful condominium in Chicago.
She made almost everything from scratch. The food included pinwheel cookies, lemon bites, craisin chocolate scones (the "craisin" is not a typo- I mean a cranberry and a raisin hybrid), and an assortment of small bite sandwiches such as tuna, hummus and cucumber, and peanut butter and jelly.
She made her cupcakes from scratch too, as well as her blueberry muffins. Her mom made her chocolate-covered pretzels.
Jessie also made a brie concoction for eating with crackers. I've been avoiding cheese over the past month or so since I usually eat it in enormous quantities and it makes me sick, but I let my recent habit slide on Sunday. It was worth it, and I didn't even get ill.
I have a very hard time saying no to ooey, gooey cheese.
Along with her food, her table decorations were incredibly creative and sparked a load of conversation throughout the afternoon.
Even the thing that you put the tea leaves in (what do you call it?) was adorable.
You put the leaves inside of the little pot and close it, and then you pour hot water over it while you watch the color and flavors diffuse into your cup. I had a total of three cups of tea (and lots of little sandwiches!).
I had a great time munching on food and catching up with some girls who I haven't seen in a long time. I'm so glad that Jess decided to do this!
She also bakes for parties of all sizes. You can contact her on her blog
if you want her to do something for you. If you go on her site, you can see more pictures and all of the sorts of things that she bakes. You won't be disappointed. As you see from my pictures, she's very talented. She's been baking for most of her life, has a bachelors degree in food science from University of Illinois, has a culinary degree from a French pastry school in Chicago, and she's worked as a pastry chef in some very accomplished restaurants in the city such as the Pump Room
. This girl knows what she's doing.
Thanks for the great hospitality, Jess!
Yesterday was my 26th birthday, and it was pretty much perfect except for my aggravating trip to the DMV. My driver's license expired yesterday, so I was thinking that I could just waltz in there, take a picture, and then waltz back out with a shiny new license.
While I did leave with a new license, there were some extra unexpected steps that I needed to do before that was possible. Since I still have a speeding ticket on my record from 2008 (I got it in rural Indiana while visiting Andi at IU, and the county gave me a choice: never step foot in that county for a year OR go to driving school. I chose the first option, but I forgot that it was still on my record. Ugh.).
As a result, I needed to sit down and take a written test in order to renew my license.
I was a little terrified at first. Living in the suburbs without a driver's license means that you are like a needy poopy toddler needing Mommy and Daddy to do everything for you, so I really didn't want to lose Illinois' permission to drive my car. I asked the two ladies in the testing area if they thought that I needed to study to do well on it, and one of them made a joke about the fact that she already knew all of the answers and so it wouldn't be hard for her. They then told me that I could take a book and study for as long as I wanted, which was more helpful than the first remark, so I did that. I reviewed chapter 9, which went over all of the street signs. Then, I decided that I was ready.
The first page had a bunch of street signs without labels, and I had to write down what they meant. It seems like it would be easy, but we're used to seeing signs with writing on them. We had to know the sign based on the shape and color. The stop sign was a no-brainer, but I know that I wouldn't have done nearly as well on that page without first looking through the book.
The rest of the exam was all multiple choice. Some of the questions were like this (and I'm paraphrasing):
- Will you lose your license if you hit a pedestrian, kill them, and then drive away?
-Can you talk on your phone without a hands-free device?
-If you are driving and you see a pedestrian in your lane, do you: a) report them; b) hit them; c) carefully drive around them
That was pretty much how it went. There were questions about driving according to the road conditions, if the solid yellow lines mean that you can't pass another vehicle, etc. As you see, it was a piece of cake. I passed.
Speaking of cake, the rest of my birthday involved just that. I came home to four giant cupcakes. Say hello to Carrot Cake I, Carrot Cake II, Mrs. S'More, and Mr. Peanut Butter.
Then, my friend Betty picked me up and treated me to a manicure and a pedicure at my favorite nail place called Shalom Nails in Arlington Heights. They are extremely reasonably priced, and they do a better job than anywhere else (at least in my experience). A mani/pedi combo costs $35, and they do such a great job that all of my manicures last at least a week. Plus, they give you massages when they're finished.
After the pampering, we met Meredith and Kate at Yard House
in Glenview. This is legit one of my favorite restaurants in the world for a multitude of reasons (two of them being that their BBQ chicken salad is the size of a small child and is just incredibly amazing and they have a ginormous beer list).
I order the salad 9 out of 10 times, but I was craving something Mexican last night. I opted for two street tacos with rice and beans. You can pick any two tacos from the list, so I got the baja fish (grilled; not fried) and chicken tinga tacos. They usually come on flour tortillas, but I asked for corn tortillas. In my opinion, corn tastes a million times better and is more nutritionally beneficial for you. Why NOT choose corn?
Meredith surprised me with a necklace that I'm wearing in the picture below. I love it!
My friends spoiled me rotten, and it gets even better since I have more celebrating planned for the weekend.
I hope that everybody is having a great (and not too hot!) Thursday!
I can't wait to tell you about the class that I'm taking this summer. As some of you know, I'm down to the last two classes of my prerequisites and will be finished the day that I jet off to San Francisco to go to my wedding. I'm taking biochemistry online (which I love, but I won't bore you with that stuff) and a class called "Foods" at University of Illinois in Chicago.
"Foods" meets once a week on Mondays. I take the train down there in the morning and I'm back by the late afternoon. In between, everything revolves around food. My professor is a chef with a culinary and a biology degree (I forgot specifically which type of bio degree) who has a certified organic farm out in the country and invites his students out there. He teaches in my masters program, so I'm hoping that I'll get to know him well enough for an invite! As you would expect, he knows a heck of a lot about food.
We have a lecture that goes for about two hours (last week was about the chemistry of food), and then we go into our kitchen lab. In there, we work in groups and have full access to the pantry (I felt like I was on "Chopped"
or one of those kinds of shows on my first day). We wear aprons and hair nets. On our first day, we prepared a whole bunch of little samples of things such as rice, tomato sauce, cheese dip, vinegar and salt water (to taste!) and sugar cookies to run comparison taste tests. Last week was the meat lab. I don't eat red meat anymore, but I did find Boca Burgers in the freezer and made one for myself for lunch! It was great! I also made steak stir fry, but only a few people ate the beef. The rest of us stood around and picked at the veggies off of the plate. Tomorrow is the poultry lab, which I know that I will enjoy. We get to eat everything that we make, so there's obviously no point in me bringing lunch.
I called this post "Mouthfeel", because this is a term and a concept that you need to understand when selecting your herbs for your foods. "Mouthfeel" applies to how the food feels inside of you as your tongue moves it against the roof of your mouth. Something creamy, like gelato, has a very different mouthfeel to something like potato chips. My chef professor brought up this concept when we asked him if we should use dried or fresh herbs in our sauces. He told us that foods with a softer mouthfeel, like a cream cheese dip, needs something to match it like fresh herbs. A different texture of food, like garlic bread, goes better with dried herbs. This may seem like common sense to most people, but I never thought about it that way. He also taught us that when you slice a big hunk of meat before cooking it, you must cut it perpendicular to the muscle tissue (not parallel).
I like cooking poultry, so I can't wait to see what kinds of tips I come back with tomorrow. If I didn't have to study for an exam every week, this would be the best class ever!
Other Fun Happenings
Below: My cousin (at least I think we're cousins- we're definitely related to each other by marriage, so can I just call her my cousin?) Ellie's dance recital! She asked me at Passover
if I could watch her, and I certainly could not miss out on that. I loved seeing all of the kids dance.
Ellie with her mommy Julie!
Did you know that I was in a ton of dance recitals when I was younger? I took all sorts of dance classes like ballet, jazz, modern, tap, and then I took one hip hop dance class. Unfortunately, my body doesn't move like a hip hop dancer. Not at all. I didn't like that class. Ellie is a fantastic hip hop dancer, though!
I also volunteered two weeks ago at the North Shore Half Marathon
. My mom and dad ran in it, and my mom signed me up to volunteer with the DermiNation team
. I was a little annoyed that I had to be there at 5:45 am to set up the water and Gatorade station, but I ended up having a BLAST!
The streets were very peaceful when I walked to the meeting spot from my car. The path was lined with trees, which I'm sure the runners appreciated.
Shade or not, though, the temperatures climbed up to the high 80's by the time that the race was in full-swing. I was located at the mile 7 Gatorade station (so halfway through) at the end of a big hill. I have never encountered an experience in my lifetime (yet) where people were happier to see me. I yelled, "GATORADE! WE GOT GATORADE! WATER AROUND THE CORNER!" so many times that I was surprised to leave with my voice intact, but I enjoyed every second of it. I was just glad to be there to help...and a little happy that I was standing still and not running. It was also fun to see my parents run by me!
I had so much fun that I want to volunteer for the Rock N Roll Half Marathon
in Chicago, but it's also the weekend before I leave to go to San Francisco. I might have to sit it out, because I know I'll have so many things to do!
This wedding post is from Chantal and Jon's wedding on June 2nd. I met Chantal in college from visiting my longtime friend Meredith at Kansas University in Lawrence. I drove from Urbana-Champaign in Illinois to Lawrence, which is a 7-hour drive, multiple times because I loved the campus and Mere's college friends so much. Chantal met her husband Jon in Kansas, and then they miraculously moved to Chicago last year! I wish you could have seen how happy I was when Meredith told me that they were coming here.
The wedding ceremony, as expected, was beautiful! In between the service and the ceremony, Goda and I went to Mickey's
in Lincoln Park for a drink on their patio and an excuse to enjoy the perfect weather. I then went over to Jon's to take Libby outside, and then Goda and I walked to the Sun Times Building (which is down the street from Jon's apartment). Talk about convenience.
Their wedding reception was in the hotel inside of the Sun Times Building. There was apparently a gorgeous view of the city from the bar on the floor above us, but we never made it up there. We had enough things at the party to keep us distracted!
The bride loves purple!
Goda and I were placed at the Chicago table. It was funny that there was a designated Chicago table, because it made us realize that everybody else was from out of town. Jon's family is from Nebraska, and Chantal's is from Kansas and North Carolina.
Soon after we took our seats, we got our food. I got the halibut with mashed potatoes and grilled veggies, and Goda got the pasta with feta cheese and veggies. We shared and enjoyed.
The table decorations were beautiful. We were wondering if there was actually wine inside of those bottles. There was.
Chantal and Jon told us all to look underneath our seats to see who had a wine opener taped there. Sure enough, Goda had one beneath her. Whoever had the opener could keep the bottle, but Goda was kind enough to share her winnings with the table.
Soon after, everybody got wedding cake and ice cream! I'm not eating much dairy at the moment (I can tell you about that later), so I just moved the ice cream aside and dug into the cake. Yum!
After we ate, the beautiful bride and groom danced their first dance as a married couple. The picture looks like it's from an old black and white movie, doesn't it?
Then, it was our turn to dance! Wow, did we have fun. I definitely rocked out to "Cotton Eyed Joe", along with everybody else in my age group.
Me, Meredith, Goda
We also met the most adorable little boy on the dance floor. Goda danced with him for a while. He had moves!
Katie, the beautiful bride Chantal, and one of their tall KU friends!
Bo and Chantal
My adorable little dancing friend
Me and bridesmaids Meredith and Eva
The newlyweds are on their honeymoon right now and are constantly posting pictures of their perfect little getaway in Hawaii. JEALOUS! I guess I do have my honeymoon in less than two months, so I can't complain.
Congratulations Chantal and Jon!