Now that I'm back in class and the shuddersome week of finals is approaching, I wish that I could go back one week and enjoy my gratifying break one more time. My Thanksgiving break was nearly perfect until I remembered that I had responsibilities in my life on Sunday morning and pulled out my study materials. Wah. I may not be able to go back to last week literally, but I can at least recapture the memories.
On Friday, I drove to the city with Libby (so that I could begrudgingly drop her off off at my brother's apartment) and Jessica
. From my brother's apartment, we went on to our mini Harand Camp gathering at our friend Kate's place.
I went to overnight camp for six years, and five of those summers were at the same place: Harand Camp of the Theatre Arts
(ohhhh how I miss it!). Most people who live for up to six weeks with the same people year after year become very close friends, and I was no exception to that rule. My group of friends and I used to meet up several times per year, but that doesn't happen as much now that we're scattered all over the place. Since there were so many of us in town at once last week, we coordinated this gathering.
We were always convinced that our friend Kate was an adult trapped in a teenager's body when we were at camp, so it was no surprise to me that Kate is naturally an amazing host. For one thing, she concocted deliciously creative drinks that consisted of champagne, anise liqueur, mint, lemon, and other tasty ingredients. We pretty much finished the bowl.
She also put together three cheese plates:
Cheese plate one
Cheese plate two
Cheese plate three
I brought my mom's drool-worthy pumpkin cake and gluten free peanut butter cookies from Thanksgiving. I brought them in a disposable pan, and Kate arranged them on a plate to make them look pretty. I believe she should could do this professionally.
We almost cleared the plates by the time our last friend got there. Everything was so, so good. She also let us sample three different kinds of beer from Half Acre Beer Company
, which is a Chicago-based brewery. As I said, Kate is the Hostess with the Mostess.
In addition to inhaling all of her food, we had a great time taking in the views of her apartment and browsing her decorations. She uses vintage suitcases as a coffee table. How creative is that?!?
We had an incredible time together. It was like we had never left each other. We've been all over the place since starting college, but we're still the same people. It's so much fun to reminisce about camp memories and people from the past. It will never get old for us.
Me, Mimi (lives in D.C.), Laura, Jess (lives in LA), Stacey (lives in NYC), Kate
After appetizers and nonstop chatty-time, we walked from Kate's apartment to Vapiano
in Lincoln Park. It's new in Chicago, but there are locations all over the world.
If you've ever been to Foodlife
on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, then you will understand the concept of this restaurant. Every person gets a card when they sit down at their table. From there, you can roam around the restaurant (which resembles an upscale cafeteria) and pick what kind of food you want. The restaurant is Italian-themed, so you get your typical choices of pizza, pasta, paninis and sandwiches. You can either pick something from the menu, or you can customize it.
You walk up to the appropriate station, order you food, and then give the cook your card. For instance, I walked up to the pasta station and ordered whole wheat spaghetti with pesto sauce and broccoli (a customized order). I handed the pasta cook my card, he swiped it, made my pasta while I waited, and then gave me my food to carry back to my table.
There is also a full-serviced bar there. Drinks also go on the card. When you're ready to leave, you give the hosts your card. You total is tallied on there, and you pay and tip right there. Easy as pie.
Kate and Mimi had to leave after dinner, but the rest of us hung out at the bar. Nicole, who was also a Harander for two years, also met us.
Laura, Stacey, Jess, Nicole, me
Jess and Nicole and I later painted the town red. Okay, that's not completely true, but we were out pretty late dancing our bums off.
I slept at Jon's apartment, which was walking-distance from my next gathering the following morning. I met a bunch of my college friends at EATT
in River North for a Saturday brunch.
I am a big lover of skillets. I got a veggie skillet with two eggs (sunny side up) and swiss cheese. It was GOOD. It wasn't as satisfying as the cheese plates from the night before, but it was close!
My college friends also make me so happy ( Irene is also a high school friend).
Irene and Jenny
The majority of us were out (painting the town red) very late the night before, so that makes it even more special that we all got out of bed to get together. It reminds me of college!
From back left: Jenny, Alyson, me, Kate, Irene From front left: Molly, Danya, Rachel
I hope everybody else (in America) had a wonderful break!
On Thanksgiving, many of us like to stuff our faces full of food by hitting our buffet tables a minimum of three times. Since I would rather have my stomach burst from excessive gnocchi than turkey and gravy, I like to focus on other things during Thanksgiving instead of the grub. This holiday is for spending time with friends who live in other parts of the country, family I only get to see a few times per year, pumpkin pie (okay, I guess I like some of the food), and responsible amounts of booze.
Last night, I was lucky enough to get together with a big group of my friends for the Turkey Trolley Trot. For the price of twenty dollars, we could go to up to six bars and enjoy unlimited beer and Pilgrim Punch (some gross alcoholic punch that I didn't drink), food, and trolley service between each bar. When my friend told me about it last week, I knew that I would be raving mad to pass up a deal like that. I also had no trouble recruiting some other buddies to come with me.
There's Jessica on the trolley (she's in town from Los Angeles!).
Irene (in town from Boston) and Andi and a nice boy who shared his seat with them on the trolley.
There's one of the six trolleys that circulated the mass crowds from bar to bar.
If you're not familiar with the Thanksgiving traditions here, then you don't know that the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving (called Black Wednesday) is the busiest bar day of the year. Each bar that we went to was so packed at certain points that it made me uneasy. They eventually emptied out, but I always hate it when there are too many people cramped into one space. I also had to wait 15 minutes to use the bathroom at one point, which is an absolutely miserable experience if your bladder is full. The comic relief in the situation was that Andi and Irene started confronting the girls who budged the bathroom line. Then one girl argued back with Irene, saying that she wasn't doing anything wrong. Some people are ridiculous. If there are people writhing in pain because they have to pee so badly, you don't cut in front of them in line. You just DON"T!
The only other painful thing of the night was the traffic. I departed for my friend Alex's apartment at 2:40 pm and didn't make it there until 5. Once I got closer to the city, the cars were stopped dead. Now I know that Black Wednesday is the busiest traffic day of the year! I spent so much time singing in the car that my throat was nearly raw by the time I got there.
Now, let's get back to the fun stuff. There's Irene! Never cut in front of her in line. Just don't do it.
Jane, Andi, Shelly, me, Jess and Irene at Duffy's. Once the bar crowd thinned out, we had so much fun.
Me, Jess, Andi
Jess and I slept at Alex's apartment, and then we drove back around 8:30 this morning. I enjoy sleeping in, but we wanted to get out of the city earlier than later.
I could have been productive once I got home, but I instead slept for three hours. I guess my body wanted more sleep. Around 5, we headed over to my aunt's house to meet the family for our annual Thanksgiving feast.
We started out with a cocktail hour with plenty of drinks and an appetizer spread of cheese, crackers, hummus, veggies and spinach and artichoke dip.
Cheese may be my best friend, but I didn't go overboard with it this time.
For dinner, we had all of the typical Thanksgiving fare.
There was turkey, cranberry sauce (two types), gravy, sweet potatoes, ham, veggies, and corn bread. We also had dishes that were unique to our family. My dad made an eggplant casserole. We also had the spinach cheese casserole and a Thanksgiving-themed kuggel.
We had a variety of baked sweet breads.
My plate was full, but I also didn't go overboard. I was also very impressed with the quality of the turkey, because it's usually very dry. This year, it was just right. I thought most of the food was very good!
I also didn't go overboard with the desserts. I already sampled the desserts that my mom made at home, and the only other thing that I really wanted was my Aunt Lila's pumpkin pie. It is so light and fluffy that it melts in your mouth. I was apparently a very picky eater when I was an infant, and this was the only thing that I would eat. Apparently, I loved it so much that I cried when my mom stopped giving me bites of it. I cried until she gave me more of it. 25 years later, it's still my favorite!
My grandma also made a very tasty flan. I promised her that I'd take a picture of it, but I forgot (sorry, Grandma!). It was a big hit with the crowd.
My aunt Lila makes all sorts of unbelievable desserts. She made the majority of the things on the plate, with the exception of the treats that my mom baked. My mom made the pumpkin cake slices with the white frosting and the desserts that look like chocolate chip cookies.
This year's Thanksgiving was the most fun one I have ever experienced. It was wonderful to schmooze with the family. I also think that as I get older, the more I appreciate my family and can converse better with the (older) adults. My younger cousins are also maturing, and I'm enjoying their company more than I ever have. I'm very thankful for everybody in my family.
I have two more days of fun before I have to buckle down and hit the books. Goodnight, everybody!
Hello friends! I am so tired and want to collapse in my bed right now, but I can't do that until I post something. I just can't.
Today was my last day of classes for the week, because it's Thanksgiving Break! This is my first American Thanksgiving in three years. Wow. While I enjoy the holiday, the days around it are very hectic for me. My friends come in from all over the country, and there are always too many things to do. I don't mean that in a bad way. It's just not one of those relaxing holidays where the only thing that I have to worry about is petting my dogs, feeding myself, and trying to wake up before 2 pm.
Anyway, you may notice that when I go up to a week without posting anything on my blog, my first post after my "hiatus" is a plethora of randomness and one thing has nothing to do with the other. You will notice that again today. I am also very tired, so this will be even more ridiculous than usual.
First, I love Annie's Mac and Cheese.
I crave noodles and cheese separately on a daily basis, so putting the two types of food together is just like peas n carrots for me. Not only are Annie's products tasty, but they are organic and are whole grain (at least the boxes I buy are whole grain). Extra fiber? Hell yeah!
I like to make the whole box (and save half for another meal or sometimes eat the whole box at once and then sit there and wonder why I just did that and say that I'll never eat a whole box again in one sitting just like people say that they will never drink again when they wake up with a hangover because I was just so damn full YAY I love run-on sentences without punctuation!) and then spoon a meal-sized portion onto a bed of baby spinach. I also normally add a handful of shredded cheese to it while it's still hot in the pot and sprinkle some garlic powder on top.
It's cheesy goodness!
I liked the Creamy Deluxe (it's cheesier than the average Annie's mac and cheese), but there are plenty of other varieties that I enjoy. They all pretty much taste the same, but the shapes are different.
Here's another thing I want to tell you: I understand why people like freezing their bananas. I can only eat a whole banana when it just turns ripe (I gag when they get too soft), so it's much more economical for me to peel and freeze them when they get to the gagging/brown point than throw them out.. I've been using my frozen bananas for smoothies, and you should do the same thing! Just make sure that you peel them before you freeze them. Can you imagine trying to peel a frozen banana?
Over the weekend, I made a smoothie with chocolate protein powder, my soy eggnog
, a frozen banana, tart cherry juice, and frozen berries. It was too sweet for me, but I learned that eggnog is a great add-in for smoothies. I just don't recommend adding too much fruit, because it makes it sickeningly sweet!
At least it looked purdy.
Before I go faceplant on my pillow (or on Libby, who is sleeping on my pillow), I'm sharing dog photos. It's a passion of mine.
A doggie friend visited our house on Friday.
He made friends with one of our dogs.
And then he made friends with our other dog.
Mickey loves it when other dogs come over to play. We think Cody likes it too, although it's hard to tell with him. He'll wag his tail at anything. Sometimes, we question if he can even tell other dogs apart. We're not always sure that he knows who we are....
Speaking of doggie visitors, Libby is here until Thanksgiving! My bed is still her favorite place in the world.
Dog cuddling with dog
She's lying across my pillows right now, so I have to move her over before I get into bed. She won't like that. What a poor puppy, having to deal with me taking over her bed space.
If you're in the US, have a wonderful start of the holiday!
My dog Mickey is a hoot. Our yard is surrounded by prairie, and Mickey runs into it when he's not wearing his electric collar since the plants are past the boundaries of our property. We always know when he went too far, because his long and thick fur always attracts burrs and seeds and other native flora. This time, he came back with a stick stuck in his tail.
I was one baaaad boy!
He's so cute, that I can only laugh when he comes back covered in plants. How can you not snicker when your dog is trying to act innocent but has a branch attached to him?
Another amusement is that my dad bought me gnocchi (since he knows how to make me happy) and didn't even know that the food expires on my wedding day. Out of all of the days it could expire, who would have thunk that it would be then?
Naturally, I expected this to be magical gnocchi.
Don't confuse me with February 8!
I made a batch last night and mixed in salmon from Sunday night's dinner. The salmon was good, but the overall meal was very unimpressive.
For lunch today, I combined the plain leftover gnocchi with broccoli, pasta sauce and parmesan cheese. It may be the only way that I ever make it, but it's ALWAYS good!
I also have to share that it's eggnog season. If your tummy doesn't agree with regular eggnog, you can buy soy eggnog. I'm sure this is nothing new, but I've been out of the country for a few years. Cut me some slack.
I woke up early this morning and did my Plyo X workout, which is my norm for Tuesdays since I started P90X
. Plyo X is about 60 minutes (including warming up and cooling down) of nonstop movement. I was initially very scared of attempting this, because plyometrics can be very hard on your body. Too much jumping up and down could add stress on the knees and back. I experienced this when I did Zumba at my last gym. My knees were okay, but I always woke up the next morning with a sore back and leg (my right thigh that usually aches).
One of the things that I really like about Plyo X is that you can modify everything. If they do an exercise such as a jumping squat, you don't have to do the high-impact version. You can do the squat without a jump. Usually, somebody will show you how to do the modified move. Tony Horton, the P90X instructor, also explains how to lessen your chance of injury while doing a high-impact move (land like a cat!
) and stresses good shoes and a shock-absorbing mat. Once I learned that there wasn't a 100% chance of injuring myself, my attitude towards Plyo X changed.
I started running two times per week at the same time that I started the program, but I soon realized that I was putting too much stress on my body. I wasn't a consistent runner, so my body wasn't used to that impact either. I may have been able to put up with it, but my right shin began to hurt when I walked. I stopped the running, and I used two yoga mats(one of top of the other) for extra coverage under my feet. Our basement floor is carpeted, but it's a very thin layer on top of a concrete floor. I'm sure that was one of the reasons that my shin ached.
Since I "padded up", I've had a great time with Plyo X. I am huffing and puffing more than I am in any of the other workouts, because it's all cardio. We do a ton of different squats and lunges, so it's also very good for the lower body. I only need my mats and a towel (and WATER) for this, so it doesn't require as much equipment as some of the other DVDs.
This morning, I was so exhausted towards the end of it that I literally wanted to curl up on the basement floor and go to sleep. I've never been that tired from this. I guzzled all of my water and then went upstairs for a recovery smoothie.
- one handful of frozen berries (blackberries, raspberries, cherries)
- one splash of tart cherry juice
- one scoop chocolate whey protein powder
- one cup vanilla soy milk
- One tbsp instant coffee (I needed that coffee!)
I drank it while I got ready for class. Do you like my thumb nail, by the way? It's a Sally Hansen Nail Polish Strip.
They come in all sorts of crazy patterns. You just buy the strips, which are real nail polish, and put them on your nail like a sticker. You press them down on your nail and then use a nail filer that they give you to file off the excess part of the strip that hangs over your nail. Mine are starting to chip, so my flower child pattern is coming off soon.
Bye bye for now!Editor's note: The workout is called "Plyometrics X". I'm not really sure why I've been abbreviating it!
Hi friends! I'm now on my sixth week of P90X
. I think it's about time to talk about it!
As I mentioned before, I was getting bored with my workout routine a few months ago and wanted to do something more challenging for my body. I found The Butt Bible
on Exercise TV
. I followed the workout religiously for six weeks, and I was very pleased with the results. I went from only being able to do about four push ups to fourteen
on the toes (which was a huge deal for me), and my whole body felt tighter. Once I finished the program, I decided that I wanted to do something more ambitious.
I started P90X the next week (I got the program at half price on Amazon.com!
), and I haven't regretted it for a second. Here's what I can tell you about it: you cannot NOT get into better shape (double negative= SUPER positive=you WILL get into better shape). The program comes with a variety of workouts, each on its own DVD. Each workout is approximately an hour (some are longer), and you do six workouts per week. You must have the flexibility in your schedule to accommodate them, because you are not supposed to skip them. If you have to wake up 90 minutes earlier than usual (I often do), so be it.
P90X takes 90 days to complete if you stick to the schedule and don't skip days. You never have to do the same routine two days in a row, and you rarely repeat a routine in a given week. As a result, you don't get bored, and your muscles don't get bored.
Here's what an average week looks like:
Day 1: Chest and Back (with Ab Ripper X, which is a 15-minute ab workout)
Day 2: Plyometrics X
Day 3: Shoulders and Arms (with Ab Ripper X)
Day 4: Yoga X
Day 5: Legs and Back (with Ab Ripper X)
Day 6: Kenpo X
Day 7: Rest or Stretch X
Other than Ab Ripper X, you never have to repeat in the same week! That's nice, right? You follow this schedule for three weeks, and then you change it.
Five weeks into P90X, I can do more than 20 push ups at once (I do WAY more than that throughout the duration of one workout). I see definition in my stomach and arms that I have never seen before in my life. I don't look like a crazy muscle woman, but I can't help but notice that I'm getting more toned. I look healthier. I love it. I'm pushing my body to incredible heights, and I'm going to keep at it! ANYBODY can look better from this.
I'll talk more about specific workouts as I blog. I'd overwhelm you if I went into detail about each and every one.
Enjoy the rest of your Monday!
Friday night was a blast and a half. It was my brother's 30th birthday, and we dined in style at Carlucci in Rosemont
(a hop and skip away from O'Hare).
On a side note, I used to want to live in Rosemont because the water tower looks like a giant rose. Obviously, I had my priorities straight as a liltle babe.
Back to the juicy stuff, I could not say enough wonderful things about Carlucci. Everything about the place screamed out "Tuscany!", but not in a tacky way. It was very classy, but it also didn't feel like the kind of restaurant that you walk into and walk right back out because you can't even afford a bread roll and a glass of Coke from the menu.
While we waited for Jon to get there from the city, I dove into the bread, olive oil and parmesan cheese while my dad perused the extensive wine menu.
They gave us a little bit of variety with the bread.
Once Jon arrived, we got our wine and appetizers: eggplant parmesan and fried calamari.
The calarmari was perfectly crispy and fried. I wish there were more of the tentacles in there, but I was still happy. The eggplant was also impeccable.
My mom and I split a caesar salad. It was great.
I decided on fettuccine with clams for my main dish, and I was not disappointed with my order. Not only were there clams in the shells, but there were also happy little shell-less clams dispersed throughout the noodles and broth. My gosh, I was clam-happy. Everything was just so, so good.
I got up and went to the bathroom when they brought out the tiramisu for Jon, so I didn't get a picture of all of it. There were berries , too. I'm sure you know I'm going to say that the dessert was also perfect.
There's four out of five of us! My oldest brother Ben was away for the weekend, so he missed our small foodie gathering.
We loved our food, we loved our server, and we loved our table. I didn't like having to leave the restaurant and go out into the office complex to use the bathroom, but I guess we can't have it all.
Jon also got some fantastic presents. Even Libby got something!
I celebrated with his friends in the city on Saturday night, although I unfortunately didn't get any pictures.
If any of you live near Vernon Hills, Illinois, you should forget about everything that you are doing at the moment and drive/walk/bike/horseback over to Nirvana Wine and Grillerie.
I had never been there or even heard of it until I accompanied my parents to dinner last Saturday night during a study break. My dad told us that he was going to take us somewhere exciting and new, but he kept the name of the restaurant a surprise. My mom and I didn't know where we were going until we got out of the car.
The weather was very cold, but we forgot all about that after we walked in the door. I learned right after that that I had entered an international clean-eating wine bar. No sort of dining experience could excite me more, unless it's an international clean-eating wine bar that allows dogs and frequents in Disney sing-alongs throughout the night. I was very intrigued.
Although I knew I had to hit the books when I got home, I still ordered a flight of wine. A server dropped off complimentary samples of wine for us to taste before we ordered our drinks, and it was delectable. My mom and I both decided to get the Spicy Latin wine flights. I can't find the exact names of the wines we drank, so I can't tell you what they were. Bummer. I enjoyed all of them, though. Along with the flights, they have tons of affordable wines. They have a few pages filled with $20 bottles of wine that my dad said were complete steals (in other words, incredible value). He knows his wines very well, and he knew that you could find them elsewhere for a lot more money.
Our server explained to us that as a restaurant specializing in international cuisine, their dishes had to be incredibly flavorful. That made me want to sample everything on the menu. We didn't order everything, but we did manage to order a few things. My mom was dying to try the Cuban Black Bean Quesadillas, so we split that for an appetizer.
As usual, I almost died of excitement when I saw two appetizer cheese plates on the menu. I chose the American Cheese Flight. It included Triple Creme Brie, Point Reyes Bleu cheese and Praire Breeze Amish White with French bread, figs and grapes.
While I would usually expect my favorite dish of the night to be the cheese, the best for me was the mushroom soup. It was just like French onion soup, except it was loaded to the brim with fresh chopped mushrooms in a flavorful but not overly rich base. I don't like soups that are very thick and creamy, but I also want them to taste substantial if the base is thinner. This one was a soup I could never get sick of eating.
After three appetizers, I got my main dish of the night: chicken tikka kabobs. I could immediately tell this was a healthy dish. It was grilled chicken and peppers, brown rice, cucumber and a whole wheat pita. It was guilt-free.
I can't say the same thing about dessert, which was a brownie sundae. Whatever. The brownie tasted more cake-like than an actual brownie, but it was still good (especially with the ice cream). It wasn't the best brownie dessert I've ever had, but it was a helluva good end to our several-course meal.
Like I said before, you must go to Nirvana if you live in the area. They also do carry-out. My parents and I were so glad that we (my dad) found this place. The service was superb, and the food was both flavorful and nutritious. We're definitely going back!