Sunday, August 16, 2009

Not So Guilty Pleasures

Oh, so good. I got hooked on Mad Men several weeks ago after catching a repeat on AMC and promptly queued all the DVDs in Netflix. Needless to say I've been waiting for tonight and nerdily marked it on my calendar so I wouldn't forget!

Dinner was simple to use up some mushrooms and asparagus that were in a use-it-or-lose-it state with some whole wheat rotini. I made sure to have dinner ready early enough to allow my stomach to make room for dessert along all the fashion eye candy on Mad Men as well as time to clean up. This is a great easy weeknight meal that could just as well accommodate some chicken or shrimp if you felt inclined.

I just cooked up some sliced shitake 'shrooms in a bit of butter and lemon juice until they were slightly browned and added the asparagus for the last couple of minutes, along with a bit of vegetable broth and a dash of the pasta water to create slightly saucier dish. Normally I'd top it with some Parmesan but for the first time ever (what WAS I thinking?) I am out! No worries - the cheese drawer is always stocked and I added a couple chunks of feta for creaminess.

After cleaning up and painting my nails I sat down to indulge in my non-guilty pleasures. I'd seen a recipe in the latest SELF magazine for a blueberry-basil granita and knew I had to have it. Between this and the banana "soft-serve" that's been all the bloggy rage this summer who needs ice cream? This involved about two more steps than the soft-serve, which is to say that it took 3 minutes instead of 1. Really. Just add blueberries, a bit of basil, a couple tablespoons of honey, a little bit of water, and a pinch of salt to a food processor and blend. Once smooth, pour into an airtight container and freeze for a couple of hours.

Nevermind the lovely container - this was sooooooooo tasty. The clean flavors of basil and the sweetness of the blueberries made it feel considerably more decadent than it truly is. Plenty of other flavor combinations are a-brewing in my mind already.

Merry Old Land of Oz

Ugh.  Waking up this morning was not fun.  I'd had just enough last night to have a mini-hangover this morning but nothing that couldn't be worked through.  The Beanpole had to head out mid-morning to catch a flight to the other side of the Earth.  It sounds so strange when worded that way.  Anyway.  I needed something bland to eat, but needed it quickly, so once he was packed and ready to go we ducked into our favorite little neighborhood bakery, Red Hen, for a pastry.  I just had a plain croissant and an apple juice to hold me over.  

Grocery shopping was a nightmare today due the sudden downpour on the heads of the Air show crowd who proceeded to clog every major artery heading north or south.  It took nearly an hour to get home when it typically takes 10-15 minutes.  I was happy to be on the bus and not out on the beach far from cover!  Finally hungry and ready to eat by this point I stuck an Amy's Spinach Pizza wrap into the microwave and broke out the watermelon I'd picked up.  I'm not a huge fan of watermelon but this is the third time in a week that I've had a perfect taste of it.  Not soggy or sour, just perfectly crisp and juicy.  

My go-to hangover fix used to be a nice big Coke but now that I've cut down on the caffeine it's hard to take more than a couple of sips at a time so I stayed with a carbonated water.  Bubbles make everything better!  See how pretty?

Since then I've enjoyed a leisurely Sunday Spa day.  I'm exfoliated, buffed, polished, washed, straightened, moisturized, and RELAXED.  I think I did everything but dye my eyes to match my dress! Ooooooh, and I have what promises to be an extremely delicious dessert in the making right now.  My goal is to have everything ready to start my day tomorrow early tonight so I can curl up on the couch with my pretty pink toes, tasty (and healthy!) dessert, and relish every second of the new season of Mad Men.  Can't wait to find out what changes have taken place at Sterling Cooper!

I Went to the Danger Zone

Seems like a fitting title for a weekend filled with sonic booms and unexpected showers.  First, a correction.  Yesterday's yogurt was not in fact Oikos, but Chobani.  Either way I'm still a Fage kind of gal.  

Not long after the yogurt yesterday The Beanpole and I headed out to run some errands and see some friends who were kind enough to invite us over to enjoy their front-row seats to the Air and Water show.  We snacked on Romano cheese, rice crackers, spicy olives, and zesty pickles.  The pickles stole the show in my opinion!  I'm not sure what the zestiness contained but they were delicious!  How 'bout this view?!?!?!

Not terribly long after we arrived the Thunderbirds came zooming in and several of us piled onto the 24th floor balcony to watch the routine to the Top Gun soundtrack blaring on the speakers inside.  As fun as they are to watch I've got to say that they don't hold a candle to the Blue Angels.  Once a Navy girl always a Navy girl, I guess.  I tried to grab a couple shots of them in action, but they were hard to catch!  We all squealed with excitement (heightened perhaps by the beer and daquiris that were flowing) when they came flying right over the building:

Later we caught a bus up the street to the bar to meet some more friends and have a couple of beers.  Can't beat a $4 Carlsberg!  I hadn't really eaten a formal lunch and was pretty hungry by that point so I ordered the veggie skewers.  YUM.  Two skewers of peppers, zucchini, squash, and tomato over couscous with a curry dipping sauce and pitas.  I shared some of the pitas and sauce but tore into the veggies like a wild woman.  It's funny how the body truly comes to crave healthy options after a little while!  

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Happy Birthday to ME!

Now that I've adjusted to the new job and working out of the house again I'm making a sincere effort to get back into this blogging thing. It all sort of comes down to my birthday resolution. I don't actually make New Year's resolutions with the rest of the world but prefer to do them on my birthday. It's a fresh start for me and a chance to try to make some positive moves forward. While the rest of the world rejoices the coming of spring and new growth I instead use the dark, cold days of winter to reflect on the changes that I've already put in place through the fall and use the thoughts of all the new shoots to energize existing plans for a motivational boost. It's been a season of change around here and I've enjoyed the last month of reflecting on the past year and getting ready to start all over.

So, without further ado, I'm posting my Birthday Resolutions and the steps already in place for the world (or the 4 readers I currently have) to see

1. Start writing again. It's tough to get started, and tougher to keep going, but it's what I love. So I signed up for a class this fall on freelancing for magazines. By the end of the five sessions we're to have a finished article ready for submission and/or publication. I'm looking forward to getting some ideas and guidance and finally pursuing this after thinking about it for so many years.
2. Begin a regular yoga home practice. For years it seemed that a daily home practice was out of reach, something to be relished by those with endless hours and not bound by the time-space continuum. Recently though the lightbulb went on and I realized that a twenty minute practice could be just as valid as an hour and a half or more. This realization leads me to my third (and more nebulous) resolution:
3. Remember that it's all just practice. Like many others I have a tendency to forget that it (whatever IT is) doesn't have to be perfect the first time. It's ok to have a cooking disaster because plenty of opportunities for simple successes exist. It's ok for my heels to fly up stubbornly during adho mukha svanasana as long as I keep practicing. Maybe they'll get there. Maybe they won't. But either way, I will, and that's the bigger point of it all anyway.

Enough of the serious stuff, right? The past couple of weekends have been some of the best on record in the past year because the workaholic Beanpole was able to escape the doom of consultancy to GASP - spend time with his wife and reclaim a bit of a normal lifestyle. We celebrated last weekend with none other than a Chicago-style deep dish pizza at Pequod's (for him) and a movie date (for me) to see Julie and Julia. Many critics have expressed disappointment with the Julie segments but having read the book (a couple weeks after 30, being laid off from a job I didn't really like anyway, and loving food but not really knowing how to cook, and living in 600sf while being a frustrated wanna-be writer) I have to say that it was spot-on. I can't even count the number of times that the Beanpole turned to me and said "Yup. That's you."

That just about catches us up to this week! This is probably one of the better birthday weekends on record. Yesterday started out with an adorable puppy card and a box of Oreos on my desk from my cube-mate. How sweet was that of her? We'd talked the day before about "trigger foods" and of course, Oreos were mentioned. While I try not to place extremely strict guidelines on what I can or can't eat Oreos will send me over the edge every time so they are a once a year treat. And after breaking open the package I can say that they have yet to disappoint! The day got even better when my second paycheck hit. The thrill of seeing money in our bank account again is a fantastic high. What could make the day better still? The Beanpole getting home from Philly! And better than that? A lovely French dinner (in honor Julia, of course!) on Bistro Campagne's charming patio with a bottle of rich red wine. He enjoyed the special tenderloin while I feasted on halibut. We had a slight mixup and the runner served me a plate of rabbit instead and not paying attention I bit right in. Ohhhhhhh, it was amazing to have meat again. I sneaked in two bites before they snatched it away from me to replace it with my order but feared becoming sick. When I was still kicking half an hour later I knew I'd found a meat option! Will I eat rabbit on a regular basis? Not likely, as I'm loathe to prepare it and the Bistro is just a little pricey to visit regularly, but it's comforting to know that I'm not destined to remain solely pescatarian. It was a little too dark to get any photos, but I did snap the wine so we can pick up a couple bottles.

We slept in this morning after going to bed so late last night and are getting ready to run some errands and drop by some friends' house to enjoy their balcony for the annual Air and Water show. The Thunderbirds' maneuvers never cease to thrill me and a dream of mine is to ride through a show some day. I'd settle for the Blue Angels though if I had to and had a Blue bowl of breakfast in their honor.

Blueberry Oikos topped with blueberries and a bit of peach maple granola. I'm not crazy about Oikos but it was on sale for considerably cheaper than my favorite Fage so Oikos it was! And a big cup of water which was not, as the cup indicates, a killer margarita. Saving that for tonight perhaps!

We'll probably grab lunch out since the fridge is pretty bare. I'm hoping to find a tasty and filling salad somewhere since we'll be having cocktails tonight with some more friends to celebrate my birthday some more. After spending my 30th in the GI doctor's office doubled over in pain and misery I'm milking this one!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

What a Day!

Wow, I'm just amazed at all the sad celebrity news this week! I've been glued to the TV most of the afternoon trying to keep up with the is-he-or-isn't-he coverage around Michael Jackson. It's just been in the past couple of years that I've started to really enjoy his music. Hopefully he'll enjoy some peace now that he seemed to struggle to find here on Earth.

Annnnyhoooo. I knew I wanted to keep lunch on the lighter side tonight since I'm planning on a pasta dinner but didn't feel like a salad. After staring at all the yummy goodness in the fridge I had a flashback to some lettuce cups that a friend made one summer day a couple years ago. That version involved ground turkey but conveniently I had some Boca Crumbles in the freezer just waiting on a day like this. They're not much to look at but were very tasty!

I sauteed some chopped onion and garlic until translucent, added a bit of red bell pepper, some cumin and chili powder, the Crumbles, and a little bit of water and covered for a couple of minutes. This was the first go-round with the Crumbles. I don't love them and if I were a meat-eater would likely have been a bit disappointed but used in a sauce or a flavorful taco recipe like this they held up pretty well. The texture was decidedly different...a little on the mushy side. Nice to have on hand for a quick lunch or dinner though.

The lettuce cups were on the small side once wrapped so I added an apple and a couple of cherries for some balance. Boy, did I ever underestimate how filling the wraps would be! Half an apple is just hanging out in the fridge waiting on me.

In other exciting news, I had a job offer! Wooooooo-hooo! It's a temp-to-hire position at a local university and I'll be starting in the next couple of weeks. We're in the process of ironing out some of the details, but oddly enough it's a position that I interviewed for a couple months ago that's come open again. Funny how the world works, isn't it? How's that for a reminder to put out lots of positive energy in the world? It really does come back around. I think I'll have a glass or two of wine tonight to celebrate!
Good morning! I woke up nice and early to the warm sunshine this morning and took my time getting out of bed. It's so relaxing to just lie there enjoying the morning and not feeling rushed. The Beanpole often jokes that I'm becoming more and more like our cat and perhaps it's true!

Yesterday's oatmeal was delicious but today called for something a little lighter so I started with a pina colada Green Monster. It ended up being a little too much and turned warm too quickly, even with a couple ice cubes added, so I didn't quite finish it. There's about 1/4 left. I need to remember to make mini-smoothies so I don't end up wasting as much. Oh well. One of these days! To supplement the smoothie and fill the belly for a little longer I added a multi-grain waffle with almond butter and fresh berries.

My landlord is refinancing the place so she and the appraiser came over to take a look (hence the late posting) and in talking with her I found out that she has a friend who has some experience in the event planning field and got her name and number. I'm really excited about all the possibilities that are opening up now that I'm reaching out and pursuing something that I've always had in the back of my mind. Being laid off wasn't easy in a number of ways but I've really reached that point of making the most of it and becoming more and more engaged in the local community and building a new network of really great people. This might be one of the best things that's happened to me in the past year! Today looks to be pretty good. I'm camping out at home watching the Cubs game and getting some more resumes out there. GO CUBS!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Hot Mess

Sorry for all the weather chatter lately! Yikes. But, as anyone in Chicago will happily tell you we KNOW how to talk about the weather. There are so many jokes about it - all based in reality. Don't like it? Give it thirty minutes and it'll be different. : )

After eating out for five straight days while on vacation (and not wanting to buy groceries right before the trip) my goal for this week was to eat as many meals - if not all - at home as possible. Tonight was an exception though because I had a chance to meet another blogger! We met at Red Ivy in the Wrigleyville neighborhood (yes, that Wrigley) for their Wednesday $5 personal pizza special. I live several blocks away and with the sun beating down and a heat index of 105 degrees I was a sweaty, panting mess by the time I arrived. Sorry Lisa! I guzzled a huge glass of water and started to cool off in time for the pizza, which was delicious! The sauce was a little sweet and the crust nice and doughy. Ooops - a slice was already gone when I remembered to take this photo.

Objects in photos may appear considerably larger than reality. It truly was not as big as it seems but even so, I debated bringing half of it home for later. Surprisingly it was not overly filling even in the heat so I left only one tiny slice and the walk home was much more pleasant since the sun had set behind some buildings. As we ate we talked about life lessons, the progression of careers, and living frugally in the big city during tough times. We're really fortunate to have so many fun free events and great parks here and it's going to be a fun summer to take advantage of them.

**I took a look at the blog earlier and it looks like my links aren't working. I'm planning on doing some updates in the next couple of days so this should be fixed soon, but in the meantime please be sure to visit (cut and paste) for more info on Lisa and her blog**