Thursday, March 31, 2011

Simple Pleasure: The Sound and the Purrrring

I am just going to go on record and say it: There are few things in life that are better than cat curled up and purring in your lap. And you can quote me on that.

In fact I have a furry feline in my lap right now which renders my arms somewhat useless for typing. It's calming. It's warm. It's a special feeling to feel loved unconditionally. 

So in honor of one of life's greatest joys I will share a few, I promise just a few images of my favorites kitties taken over the past few months. 

If you think this is too should see my iPhone.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Firm Foundation

If you all haven't picked up on it by now, I am clearly a fan of soup.  I just find it to be a perfect lunchtime option coupled with a side dish, or a crunchy/ salty snack.  They aren't too filling so you can function without the post lunch coma, and in most circumstances they are very healthy.

Because I make it a point to pack my lunch, I like to make dishes that can feed my stomach (and soul!) for several days.  Soups fit this bill nicely because they usually get better over time so as the week passes you get deeper flavors, and on a hectic Wednesday that is a welcomed development.

I like to think I am a decent cook with a somewhat advanced pallet. However, I think the next step in my culinary growth would be learning how to build upon a basic recipe and making it my own. At present I am a follower, someday I would like to lead the ingredients to create a dish based on my ideas of flavor combinations. You know those people who can just look in a refrigerator or a pantry and pull seemingly unrelated items and make a meal? People who taste their way to an end result rather than measuring.  I aspire to be that kind of cook.

Which is why Mark Bittman's article in the New York Times Magazine caught my eye. Profiling four soup types: Creamy, Brothy, Earthy and Hearty, it gives you a base for each type and teaches you two variations on each theme. The theory is, by the time you have made all twelve options you will never need a recipe again because you have learned how to riff of off one idea to feed another.

This is a perfect challenge for me seeing as I can never have enough soup on hand and I can grow as a cook in the process.

Since the thermometer still reads at a balmy 33 degrees  I decided to try my hand at the Hearty category, and since I still have so many potatoes I opted for the Minestrone (pictured above left).  It was every bit as simple as Bittman promised, and a great easy kitchen activity for a Wednesday evening.  I will admit that I haven't eaten it yet, as I want to give it time to deepen in flavor overnight, but I did manage to sneak a few samples tastes which were light and clean.

I am already looking forward to lunch tomorrow.

                                                                         Photo Source

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Blogger is acting funny and I am annoyed

I have no idea where my post from yesterday went and I just spent a good thirty minutes writing another entry tonight. I pressed "publish post" and then I went to view it an it was gone. Not in the drafts section, just gone.


It's almost midnight and I should go to bed. A workday calls and I hope to be productive tomorrow evening.

I am contemplating switching to Wordpress. Any thoughts on that?


Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Kings Speech

I had the extreem pleasure of finally seeing the beautiful, moving and utterly remarkable film The Kings Speech tonight. I am no film critic so I do not intend to write a review, but I will say that Colin Firth (who will forever remain as Mr. Darcy in my mind) and Geoffrey Rush we impeccable. By the end of the film I was sobbing, rather uncontrollably, by myself in the basement of a family I babysit for. My cheeks are still a bit tear stained.

I cried not only because of the performances, but because at a certain point in the film Colin must deliver a speech about England going to war with Germany, and I thought about how we are currently at war. I will be honest and say that I don't find myself thinking about that on a day to day basis as it seems somewhat removed from my life, and I am ashamed to admit that. There are people fighting on behalf of my country, right now, as I write this. 

I thought about a time when speeches were made over the radio. Where people had to huddle around a little noisemaking box and truly listen to the words that were blasting from it. People had to be quiet and process what they were hearing. You couldn't rewind it. You couldn't DVR it. What a novel idea.

I also thought about the feeling when you know the world is starting to change. When life changes. This thought coupled with the brilliant acting sent me over the edge. I remember the feeling when the world changed almost ten years ago. I remember when we declared war, and it fills me with such sadness to think that we are still there, and I wonder if we will ever get out. 

I do not want to get too political on this blog, but to say that I worry for the future of our country, and our world would be an understatement. Sometimes I do feel hopeless. I fear the end. I get angry at politicians (on both sides) and wish they would stop fighting over their rightful place in the sandbox of democracy and just try to get stuff done. Feed people. Clothe people. Heal people. Love people. Is that too much to ask?

Then of course in the midst of all of my tears over my fears for the world, and my complete awe at brilliant art I hear the soft cries of a sweet two year old boy who has woken up startled. I go into his room, scoop him up from his crib, rock him in a chair as he hugs my arms around him. Then I do feel the slight pangs of hope. 

I wrote a rather trite entry yesterday equating adulthood with a Costco membership.  I think becoming an adult means that you begin to understand that you have a responsibility to a generation which will proceed you. I don't mean being a parent, I mean knowing that what you do, what you say will have an effect on other people. How we act now will affect the world later and it's our job to be wise in our actions. Wise in our words. We hold a great responsibility in our hands. 

I am not sure if the artistic team behind The Kings Speech ever intended for that to be the message of the film, but it truly affected me. Waste no time adding it to your Netflix queue, it's one we all should see. 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

You Know You Are Tuning Into An Adult When...

You sign up for a Costco membership.

Soon after I moved back to Chicago, I called my friend, I shall call her The Parakeet, and said "Do you think Costco is worth the money? And if so should I join?"

She gave me her candid thoughts about the option: Worth the money? In her experience yes, however a place like Costco can make it very easy to overspend. Should I join? Hard to say with Jürgen being gone, but it can be a great place to stock up on everyday staples such as paper towels and garbage bags. I even accompanied her on a Costco outing this past summer just to get a taste of the experience. However I never took the plunge and signed up.

Recently, while at work, a company wide email went out declaring that representatives from the wholesale magnent would be coming to the office to sign people up for memberships. This got my wheels turning. After all its an option I had considered, Jürgen will be back here in a few months, and my now budget conscious self always enjoys a savings.  However the real clincher was when my friend offered to join with me so we could split the costs of a membership. Badda-bing, Badda-boom.

Today I took my first solo venture into Costco, armed with my new membership card and ready to experience the perks.  I didn't want to fall prey to buying more just because you are saving a few bucks, so I walked in with purpose. I had a list, on it were three items, and that's exactly what I left with. Self control is an important character trait.

And because I am a loser with no life, and because a Target is located just minutes from the Costco I visited, I stopped over to do a little cost comparing after the fact to see if I did, in fact, save anything.

My three items: Sensodyne Toothpaste, ScotchBrite Sponges and 13 gallon garbage bags.

Here's the breakdown:

Target: $4.99 for one tube
Costco: $15.99 for a pack of 4 (normally it's $19.99 but I had a $4 off coupon)

Total Savings: $4.00. Now to be fair you will notice had I not had the handy-dandy coupon there wouldn't have been a savings, it simply would have been breaking even. However, what I did not take into account when I did my cost comparing was the size of the toothpaste, because I think that the tubes I got at Costco are actually bigger than the normal sized tube being sold at Target. Therefore you are still getting more product for your money.

Target: $9.29 for a pack of nine
Costco: $10.99 for a pack of eighteen

Total Savings: $7.59

Garbage bags:
Target: $7.49 for fifty 13 gallon bags
Costco: $12.69 for two hundred bags.

Total Savings: $17.27

Grand Total: $28.86 in savings! Which means that I covered my membership cost ($25.00 after the split) in one visit! Score!

I am a complete dork for figuring all of that out, but I am placated knowing that it was worth the money. However, I do not think Costco is for everyone. For example, if you are the type who always leaves a store like Bed, Bath and Beyond with way more than you planned when you walked in, Costco could be very dangerous. There is so much stuff there, and would be easy to overbuy. Also, if you don't have the room to store the fifty rolls of paper towels Costco will afford you, I would wager it's not worth the savings either. Having extra around is nice, but not if they have to be stored in your living room. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

This Writing Thing

Is tough man....

I definitely needed a swift kick to get back to blogging, and I am happy that I have set a goal for myself. But I feel like I am scraping the bottom of the barrel here folks.

I remember when I started this blog. I remember standing in my bathroom on that fateful night, looking in the mirror and I just had this moment of clarity. An "ah-ha!" moment if you will. I knew I had a story to tell, and it needed to be written. Words flowed out of me. I wanted to share my thoughts, I wanted to sit down and write.

Then a funk came over me while I was in New York and it became hard to write. Then I moved back to Chicago and felt like I had let too much time lapse to pick back up and write. Now I just don't know what to write.

My life, it's pretty uneventful these days. I work, I come home, I drink wine, I talk with friends. It's all good stuff, and I am so thankful for my blessings. I just don't feel like it makes for particularly interesting blog entires.

I am not giving up on this challenge. I still plan to see this through till Easter, and I very much want to continue beyond that. I just wish I had a bit more focus. A stronger story. A greater need.

Does anyone have any thoughts on this? Any advice?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Failed Attempts

Tonight I had no obligations. My intention was to eat a little dinner and get some work done around the house. There's a suitcase to unpack. Dishes to be washed. Rooms to declutter.

I got nothing on my to-do list accomplished and now I am too tired to attempt any tasks. I sunk into the cushions of my couch, was warmed by the soft purr of a kitty, watched some television and indulged in some yummy red wine.

Sometimes you have to cut yourself a break I suppose.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Little Something I Miss...

About New York.

There is very little, but without a doubt what I miss the most is the subway. Weird right? You regularly see rats and the smells leave something to be desired and people are pushy...but I just love the trains.

It was so freeing not having a car, never having to worry about parking, or gas, or getting you picture taken by the monitoring cameras and receiving a ticket in the mail months after the offense. None of that. Plus everyone was on the same playing field, because (with the exception of a select few) everyone takes the train.

When I take public transportation I feel like I am a good person. I am not contributing to excess emissions, I am lowering my carbon footprint, I get to log in valuable people watching hours. But here in Chicago the train and bus system leave something to be desired.

Yes it is absolutely possible to get by without a car here and I know plenty that do, but having a car just makes life easier. The difference is there literally isn't anyplace you can't get to on the island of Manhattan by train. In chi-town there are entire neighborhoods that aren't accessible via train. If you live in Andersonville and your friend lives in Wicker Park you can't hope on the El unless you want to travel all the way into the loop and back out again. It just wasn't created with the same accessibility that the NY Subways have.

On top of that Chicago trains are smaller, slower and come less frequently than the subway trains. It's a bummer and as a proud "Chicagoan" I hate to give one point over to the Yankees, but I have to admit: New York, you've got us on this one.

That's ok though, I happen to think that we have better pizza AND hot dogs. How bout them apples?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

My Favorite Things: Tuesday Night Trivia

Some people work for the weekend. They tick off the days and minutes until its five o'clock on a Friday and the real fun can begin. Not for me. I prefer to have boring weekends and busy weeks. I'm a complex being what can I say?

In the past few months Tuesdays have quickly become one of my most anticiapated days because with the dawn of every Tuesday brings the possibility of victory. It's Tuesday Night Trivia my friends, and it can get intense.

I never like to feel stupid, it's not a fun feeling, however when you have a few beers in ya, and perhaps a nice batter filled plate of fish and chips, the sting is less painful. And sometimes I even leave feeling a little more intelligent than when I walked in, because not only do I gain knowledge when I don't know an answer but I surprise myself when I get an answer right.

For example: In figure skating how many rotations are there in a double axle?

Easy! Two and a half. Bam! Correct! Don't ask me how I know that...

While trivia can be a singular sport, its best played in teams and its a great way to spend an evening with friends. A team of regulars among my friends has developed and it's so much fun to catch up on the previous weeks events while exercising our minds at the same time.

It's a growing trend I hear and I highly recommend you jump on the Trivia Train. Do a little googling of some bars near you and I am certain you can find a place and time that fits your schedule. Invite some pals along and you have a regular weekly tradition in the making.

And may I say...Cheers to that!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Road trippin up (or down) I-65

A great majority of the day was spent in the car with my mom, traversing north on Interstate 65 towards Chicago. I have made this drive countless times over the past nine and a half years that I could almost do it with my eyes closed (although this is a dare I will not attempt).

I wish I could say this drive was exciting, but its a far cry from it. The terrain is flat, there are too many billboards for adult toy superstores, and the cops are fond of handing out tickets (I know from experience). However, I am a firm believer in finding adventure whenever you travel and there are a few sights one can take in should you ever find yourself cruising along I-65.

A favorite stop of mine is Fair Oaks Farms. A dairy farm about eighty miles from 90/94 it's a perfect place to stop off and fill up both your gas tank and your stomach.  An ideal break from the typical highway fast food fare they serve up fresh eats, made with ingredients from the farm. They make a mean grilled cheese, and they have a great selection of farm made ice cream. You can sample all of their cheeses and tour the many barns and learn about the workings of a dairy farm.  I still have yet to venture past the cheese tasting area, but I vow soon to get the full Fair Oaks experience.

Did you know that in the heartland of America a little wine country is being built? Hard to believe but its true, and if you want to get a sampling of some varietals just hop along the Indy Wine Trail. I have stopped at a few of these over the years, but today my mom and I took a little detour to the Mallow Run Winery in Bargersville, Indiana. I had remembered this winery because its located in a hundred year old barn and has a great tasting room set up.  You can sample up to six wines for no charge and they have a lot of wine themed gifts and other locally made items.

Now let's be honest, Indiana isn't known for great wines by any means, and a bunch of the wines they offered at Mallow run are on the sweet side, which is not my cup of tea at all, but we did pick up a very drinkable Syrah as a thank you gift for my downstairs neighbors who have been great kitty-sitters, and I snagged two delicious smelling hand crafted candles. It's not a winery for an aficionado (I am not there yet, but I am working on it) but its a lovely setting and inexpensive experience if you want to change things up. I plan on hitting a few more of the wineries on my next I-65 go round.

Probably one of the coolest parts of I-65 is the new sprawling wind farm that has sprung up in recent years. You are driving down the road with nothing but flat farmland on the horizon and then out of nowhere a sheet of wind turbines take over and makes for a very cool few minutes of travel. They are so grand as they tower above you and spin in the wind all the while creating clean energy for the masses. Every time I go through it I think "Ah....Progress."

The moral of this entry is simple: so often we are so focused on getting from point A to point B that we fail to notice the unique opportunities around us. If we all allowed ourselves to take our time and perhaps (gasp) turn off the main road and onto a side street who knows what we might find? In the end will the extra thirty minutes really make that big a difference? We can all embody the spirt of great explorers no matter where we are travelling.

Now I leave you with some more photos, taken from the passenger seat of the beautiful windmills. I am not photographer but a certain app on my phone can take any picture and turn it into a work of art.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

March Madness

I do not follow college basketball. I have not made an NCAA bracket. All I know is that I hail from a state that loves college sports and you fall on one side: you bleed Blue or your bleed Red.

I bleed Blue.

Basketball isn't what drives me mad during the month of March. It's the weather. The hateful weather that seduces me out of my ankle length coat into a waist length hoodie and then slaps me in the face with freezing temperatures.

I have spent a delightful spring weekend in Louisville where I have been able to eat lunch out on the deck, soak up the sunshine and dream of warmer days. Then I check the weather app on my iPhone and this is what I see:

Do you see how by the end of the week it will be down in the THIRTIES?? How is this fair? How is this kind? Haven't we been through enough? We had almost two feet of snow pummel our streets followed by sub zero temperatures. We get it Mother Nature, winter sucks! But it's officially spring! Bring. It. On.

I just ordered myself a new pair of spring flats from this fantastic organization. I long to shed my winter boots and don my gay footware, why must I be so taunted?

This is what they mean by March Madness.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Missed Friday/ A Note For My Brother

Ok I didn't get to post yesterday, but I have an excuse that is totally legit I assure you.

My alarm went off at 4:30 am yesterday morning. Nothing is right about that sentence. Knowing that I would have to greet the day at such a cruel hour of the morning, I tossed and turned all night completely unable to sleep.  I think I logged about forty minutes of sleep before the wretched beeping began. Awesome.

I had an early flight to catch for Louisville, Kentucky. Home sweet home. Sadly I have never been able to sleep on planes so the flight, while smooth, was rather painful.  The rest of the day looked like this: go home and make myself look less tragic, eat brunch with my brothers friend who just arrived from NYC, run an errand, get in a much needed two hour nap, shower to try to look less tragic, eat dinner with the fam at Proof (so so good), grab a cocktail at 732 Social with Neill and his friend, drive home, fall asleep with all of my clothes on. I hate when I do that. But it was necessary. Sadly the blogging didn't happen. Please forgive me.

Now onto other thoughts.

I flew into town with the sole purpose of seeing my brother in a production of All's Well that Ends Well.  His production was worth the price of the plane ticket and then some. Spectacular would be the word I would choose to describe it. Spectacular and hilarious. He was incredible and I was so proud of him.

I have always said that I don't like to "act" onstage. I like to "live" onstage, and that's what I always love to see from other actors. Neill is someone who truly lives onstage. He is the character he is playing from the top of his head to the tips of his toes. It takes an incredible amount of skill to pull it off and he does it oh so beautifully. He is particularly good with Shakespeare and heightened language pieces. It just rolls off his tongue and you actually understand what he is saying. I am not good at Shakespeare. It's taken me a long time to admit that and be ok with it because as a theatre actor you are supposed to love speaking the Bard. But I don't. It's not my thing. What can you do?

As the older sibling it's usually you who sets the footsteps for the younger ones to follow, but in our case I followed in Neill's. He was a performer from day one. He was outgoing, engaging, and fearless. I was more reserved and didn't crave attention. I was athletic, I was academic, being an actor wasn't really on my radar.

I will never forget seeing Neill in his first play, Alice in Wonderland, and he was the most delightful of Cheshire Cats. As it was an after school program-type-deal, everyone's mom had to volunteer for one performance. It just so happened I was not in school on my mom's volunteer day so I went with her and sat backstage. That's the moment when I realized I wanted to be a part of the theatre.

I observed people running around, putting on costumes, fixing their hair, getting into places. I was taken in by the excitement, the energy, but most of all the camaraderie of being a part of a whole. I wouldn't have been able to put it into those words at the time because I was eleven, but I still remember that day, I still remember that feeling.

It's hard to say how things would have panned out had Neill not gravitated towards the stage. Would I ever have thought to follow suit? I guess we will never know, but I do know that I will be forever indebted to Neill for that moment. When I would imagine winning a Tony award I always saw myself saying: "And finally I would like to thank my brother Neill, for inspiring me to be an actor and who continues to inspire me every day."

I may never win a Tony so in the meantime I dedicate this blog post, On March 19th, to my brother Neill. For his inspiration. Now and always.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


I received a Facebook invite to join a group for my high school class ten year reunion, which I learned will be taking place in October. When I received said invite, two thoughts ran through my head:

1) What did people do before the age of facebook? It's amazing and frightening how you can reach so many people so quickly.

2) How can this be possible? Ten years? I have not won my first Oscar yet! I was supposed to have accomplished that before my ten year reunion. And if not that, at least I would be on a successful sitcom or something.

Ten years. Wow. That's a long time when you think about it. Ten years ago 9/11 was merely the eleventh day of September. If you said that you "tweeted" something people would look at you and be concerned for your mental health. Barack Obama wasn't a name anyone recognized. Or Sarah Palin (and if it only could have stayed that way). You didn't text. You still bought CD's. Justin Bieber was probably still in diapers (is anyone ever going to point out that he is a dead ringer for Hillary Swank in Boys Don't Cry...anyone?). We hadn't entered into a war. No one watched Dancing with the Stars or American Idol. Apple Computers weren't cool. And certainly no one was blogging.

This is a fun game.

I used to think I would never go to my high school reunion, but now I think it could be interesting, perhaps even fun? It would be nice to see the faces of folks who I haven't seen since graduation day. To see what everyone is up to.

Am I where I thought I would be ten years after high school? I am not sure. I had ideas and starry ambitions, but I don't think I could really visualize my future back then. When I think about the next ten years I want to be more intentional about how I want to shape my life. About where I see myself going. Be realistic, yet optimistic. I certainly believe that my best days belong in my future and not my past.

I feel good about that.

Oh, and I haven't aged a day.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My Favorite Things: City Provisions

When I returned from my eight month adventure in New York I was pleased to see a new business pop up in my neighborhood. I mentioned in a recent post that I have a passion for local and sustainable food, so what could be more perfect for me than a fabulous delicatessen dedicated to serving food produced primarily by local farmers.

The place is City Provisions, and I can safely and without hesitation say that I am in love. I adore this place. For one, I admire their mission, they clearly have amazing relationships with area farmers and therefore we benefit by having a fantastic neighborhood jewel that serves quality food from a source we can trust. Secondly their staff is so informed, passionate and helpful.  Just the other day I stopped in to pick up a few new cheeses and the lovely lady who helped me allowed me to sample about six options before I made my selection. Finally the food they serve tastes great!  If you are in need of a hearty deli style sandwich, or perhaps you haven't had the time to make dinner they have incredibly fresh and delicious prepared foods you can take home.   They also offer tastings of their vendors products during the week and very cool farm dinners, which I have not had the
privilege to attend but I hope to one of these days. And as luck would have it, they have a great selection of local brews, organic spirits and biodynamic wines. Need I say more?

It's a really special thing when you feel like you live in a neighborhood where exciting things are happening. I look forward to many more visits to City Provisions and I hope over time that I may develop a relationship with the staff there. I am always striving to learn more about food and wine and this could be a fantastic resource.

If you live in Chicago, go now. If you come visit Chicago, let me know and I will take you.

Now if you will excuse me I have some delicious cheese to go eat.

Simple Pleasures: Wine Nights

Several years ago I was in a play. A really bad play. A play that was so bad it had to close early and made several "worst of theatre" lists in Chicago. However out of extreem badness total awesomeness can arise and it was from this diabolical production that I made two of my dearest friends today. Coincidentally they both share the same name and I dub them "My Sara(h)'s". Becoming friends with them made the utter embarrassment of that show totally worth it.

The summer of 2006 (which was the summer of the bad play) we began getting together for what we termed "wine nights". It was chance to go to someones home, drink wine (of course) eat some snacks and generally gab and be girlie. We made a point to have a wine night every couple of months and after a time they have become a pretty regular monthly tradition. It's amazing to think that its been over four years since the tradition began! In this time a baby has been born, a marriage has taken place, someone has moved to New York (and back again) while another cohabited with their significant other, jobs have been lost and gained and soon one of us will be off to grad school. Times may change, but the beauty of a wine night never does.

Sometimes are wine nights are centered around a theme, we have made vision boards, we have had veggie (from our CSA!) nights, we have gone to a BYOB restaurants, the possibilities are endless. It's not a novel concept, it's pretty simple really, but it's a tradition I cherish so deeply. And while I know that life's evolutions will make it challenging to keep these nights regular,  even if they have to stop I will always have the memory of them, and for that I am so grateful.

I deeply encourage people to create such nights with their friends. Life gets so busy sometimes and its so easy to let the days fly by without really connecting with anyone. Text messaging, facebook wall posting and tweeting have replaced real human interaction and have tricked us into thinking we are connected. We are not. We are informed, but we are not connected. There is a difference. I just came home from a wine night and during the entire evening not one of us checked our phones, or our email, or our facebook once. We didn't need too. We were totally contant and enjoying one another's company. It's the simple stuff, the free stuff, the no iphone app is as good as a true friend who listens stuff. I am blessed to have friends who are so willing and open to be so present.

So my Sara(h)'s: I raise a glass to you. For our friendship, now and always.

Holy crap I need to write something...

I don't have much to say tonight.

I worked all day and then came home to play hostess to several coworkers of mine for a Bachelor finale viewing party.

Yes I have been watching The Bachelor. Yes I am totally ashamed. Yes I think it is total trash. But in fairness a good friend of mine who has a degree from an incredibly prestigious university called it "TV Crack" because she watches it too. It's fascinating and horrifying all at the same time.  I am not sure what possesses these people to go on these shows considering the track record, but some of the acting that transpires is actually pretty entertaining.

And now I have a buzz from too much Pinot Grigio and not enough food in my stomach to balance it out. So while I leave you with a pretty useless entry, I promise I will write something with more substance tomorrow.

Happy Monday!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sunny Side Up: Vol. 4

I no longer live in Sunnyside, Queens (and my I say thank God!) but I like the name of this "series" I started and I want to rev it back up. So fasten your seat belts, keep your eyes pointed forward, and away we go...

This past winter I signed up for a CSA, also known as Community Supported Agriculture, through a group called Simply Wisconsin. I had always wanted to be a part of one because I have a passion for supporting local agriculture and sustainable farming practices. Thankfully Chicago has lots of CSA options but this one had come highly recommended to me by several friends so I jumped on the bandwagon and every Tuesday for ten weeks was gifted with a box of local produce, eggs and cheese. While it was incredibly awesome I must admit that living by myself made it challenging to use up all of the winter squash and other root vegetables that filled my crisper drawer. Which is why I will be super glad that once my summer CSA begins Jürgen will be back in Chicago (yay!) to help me keep any veggies from going to waste. 

Even though my winter share stopped being delivered at the beginning of February, I am still laden with potatoes. So. Many Potatoes. I love a good spud as much as the next person, after all they are one of the most versatile of veggies. You can mash em, fry em, boil em', bake em'....the possibilities are endless. However I needed to find a recipe that would use a good amount of taters and be a filling and healthy meal. 

Nothing pleases me more during my lunch hour than a nice bowl of soup coupled with some cheese and crackers, so when I came upon this recipe I knew I had found a winner.

             Potato Soup with Kale and Chorizo

                                    By: Roy Finamore, Bon Appétit- March 2008

This soup is incredibly easy to make. Just a little basic chopping prep and you really let the stove do most of the work. The recipe says to peel the potatoes but I left the skin on because I feel like someone told me once that the skin is the most nutritious part of a tater. Ok lets be honest I really just didn't want to deal with peeling a bunch of potatoes! I promise you it had no negative effect on the outcome.

After the soup simmers for an hour it is ready to go, but like any good soup if you can wait a night and let the flavors develop over time you will be rewarded handsomely. The only spice you add is a healthy dose of smoked paprika, which adds a really nice heat to the dish. The soup itself is very hearty with lots of big chunks of potato, which keep their shape instead of turning into mush which makes for a nice variety in texture. The chorizo swims unsuspectingly in the broth and helps to round out the the dish, while the kale, a super food, just makes you feel so healthy. Seriously whenever kale passes my lips I just feel my body say "thank you."

The other day at work my "pod-mate" exclaimed "That soup! It smells so good!"  I have to agree it does smell awfully nice.

You can find the full recipe here, but as always here is an ingredients list and a cost breakdown.


5 tablespoons olive oil, divided (Had
1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups) (Had
8 ounces fully cooked smoked Spanish chorizo or hot Calabrese salami, casing removed if necessary, chopped* ($5.49)
2 teaspoons smoked paprika ($6.99-I actually had this at home, but wasn't aware until I got home, oh well can't have too much smoked paprika apparently!)
1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (Had...obviously!)
8 cups low-salt chicken broth ($12.97-Bought one 48oz box and one 32oz box, both by Swanson®)
1 1/2 pounds kale, stemmed, torn into small pieces (about 16 cups lightly packed) ($1.20)
3 cups 1/2-inch cubes rustic bread** ($2.49)

Total spent: $29.14

I have eaten this soup three times since and I definitely have at least three more days worth remaining. That all equals out to $4.86 a day! Obviously if you already have the paprika that cuts the cost even more, but if you do have to spring for the seasoning its always a good investment to have a well stocked spice cabinet!

*For any vegetarians/ non-red meat eaters out there, you could absolutely substitute a veggie or a chicken/turkey sausage for the chorizo. You may just want to play a bit with seasoning since chorizo is such a heavily seasoned sausage.

**While the homemade croutons are a nice addition and add great crunch, they aren't necessary at all for the overall enjoyment factor of the dish.

**And now a PSA from the Closing Notice Headquarters: If every one of us committed to eating just 10% of our food from local purveyors we would make a huge difference for local farmers and our environment. Eating locally is not only one of the healthiest options around there but it actually can be quite affordable.   My summer CSA share for produce costs $230 and will last 18 weeks, which works out to $12.78 a week! That's no more than what you would spend at your local grocery store chain. For more information about CSA's in your area visit Local Harvest.**

For the love of Notebooks...

Have you ever happened across the blog Stuff White People Like? It's incredibly brilliant, and if you are a white, urban, liberal like myself you will find that more often than not the entries apply to you in a pretty sad way. Entry #122 hits home particularly hard because it'd devoted entirely to a brand that I covet: The Moleskin Notebook.

Do yourself a favor and read #122 then jump back here for the remainder of my entry.

Done? Had a chuckle. Good, let's carry on.

I do adore my Moleskin. Or rather I should say, my Moleskins as I have multiple. For I am incredibly white if you haven't noticed. My journal is a black leather bound Moleskin and I have a mini version of the same one that I keep on my bedside table to jot down important thoughts (which for the purposes of transparency I will admit I haven't written in since probably 2008). My dear mother, at my behest, purchased a Moleskin recipe notebook for me last year, and a few months ago I bought a set of Three Ruled Cahier Notebooks in Navy Blue.

My initial intentions for these notebooks was to make customized day planners for myself, but I decided I didn't like their size for the intended purpose. To be clear, yes you did just read that I wanted to make a customized day planner, I have since made one but it was not created in a Moleskin Journal. The levels of dorkdom in my life are at a alarmingly high percentage.

However a good Moleskin is never to go to waste, so instead I created a trio of notebooks that sit to the left (naturally) of my computer, held in place by a paperweight which was gifted to me by my Alma Mater for being what they called a "Lifer" (that means I went to the same school from Kindergarden through Twelfth grade). Could this scenario get any whiter? I'm not sure.

     From left to right: Money Matters, My Wish Lists and Free Time Fulfillment

The notebooks have been created to keep organization and focus in my life. The first one, Money Matters houses my records of personal spending. I have a set budget each month and different allotments for various spending categories. Every month I create a new page with each category listed and I leave a page blank for detailed notes on where my money goes. It's a system that works for me, and I have tried more high tech approaches to money management, but this simple and relatively old fashioned way seems to be the best bet so far. I write in it almost daily in order to keep my finances in check.

The second notebook, titled My Wish Lists, is where a keep a running tab of all the things I hope for one day. These are physical, tangible items, not wishes like world peace and rock hard abs. I have a page for each room in my house and I write down all the things I would like to eventually have for that room. Items may include: A new couch, bathroom accessories or a countertop compost pail.  I make note of this because I read somewhere once that people who actually take time to write down their goals are more likely to achieve them. Also, because if I ever happen upon extra spending cash or gift cards it helps me spend said money on things I actually want/need rather that impulsive non-necessities. I also paste pictures of images I find in magazines that inspire me, and I am currently using it to keep track of the money I am saving up for one of the larger and more pricey items on my wish list.

Free Time Fulfillment keeps a tally of things I could be doing when I find myself with nothing to do. Up until recently one of the tasks was "organize storage unit". So often when I have time on my hands I watch useless videos on Youtube. This helps me remember those projects that I say "some day when I have free time.....". There are a few things more satisfying then crossing things off of a to-do list. And while I am being totally open and putting my insane and neurotic ways out there, I should tell you that I never cross things off in pen, I always use a highlighter so I can still see the task that I accomplished.

Yep, I am utterly and completely uncool. And as white as they come.

Oh and I created the labels for my notebooks during Snowmageddon. Nothing like having no TV or internet to get the creative juices flowing.

Check out these entires for more Stuff White People Like entries that are a little too familiar for me: #123, #91, #88, #60, #54, #40, #24, #23, #8 and #5

Friday, March 11, 2011


A little over a month ago there was talk of snow. Lots of snow. Like it's the end of the world because there is going to be so much freakin snow and lets all freak out about and give it a totally absurd name such as SNOWMAGEDDON snow.

At first I thought it was all a bunch of hype and we would be lucky to see a few inches. Admittedly I did make a point to hit the grocery store a few days before the impending weather, but I was on my way there already.  Certainly I was not buying into all of the media driven hoopla.

But then on a Tuesday afternoon the sky turned completely white and the snow began to fall. It fell fast. It fell hard. It fell with a purpose. It was impossible to concentrate at work because the scene that was unfolding outside the window was too gripping to take your eyes off of. I mean Chicago see's more than its fair share of snow every winter, but this was more than just snow, this was crazy insane I want to shut down Lake Shore Drive snow. By 3:00 I called it a day. This weather wasn't playin' and the comforts of home were calling.

Thankfully (even though I was not listening to the hyperbole, no sir I was not) I opted to leave my car parked in my garage that morning and trained to work, because I have some bad car karma when it comes to navigating severe winter weather. So, I waited (along with about eighty percent of my office), for the building shuttle to take me to the train, but sadly it too decided to check out of work early because there was no shuttle to be found. I decided it's moments like these when you can create cool stories to tell your grandchildren so I put my shoulder to the wind and ventured out onto the city streets in the middle of the blizzard.

By the time I reached the train my hair was caked with snow (BAD day to forget your hat) and I waited through three sardined packed trains only to finally cross over to the other side of the tracks and take it completely around the loop in order to get home.  The train had to stop multiple times because of snow filled tracks. The whole city was canceling their plans and fleeing. The snow, it just kept on a comin.

Ok so the weathermen and women were right. There is a first time for everything.

When I arrived home I could not have been filled with more gratitude to have a warm, dry and comfortable place to call home. I put a pizza in the oven, wrapped myself in my super soft robe, opened a bottle of wine and I was set and ready to be snowed in.

One caveat? My cable and internet...out. Bummer.

The blizzard kept building in power, like a roaring symphony outside my windows, until it crescendoed into an incredibly elusive and rare weather occurrence...the Thundersnow. Have you ever experienced lighting and thunder in the middle of a snowstorm? It's beyond cool, take my word.

I went to bed early that night and for the first time in over ten years I got to have a snow day. They haven't lost a single ounce of their glory.

I managed to snap a few photos the following day. It's certainly a snow storm I will never forget.

The snow bank that formed against my back door (you can see that it was still snowing the next morning). I had to climb on a chair and jump over it to get out. 

The view through my front windows. Not very clear I realize you but can see how high the snow is creeping up around the cars.

                                     Needed to take out your trash? That was a process to say the least. 

                                      My back alleyway which thankfully was fully plowed two days later. 

This blizzard certainly slowed down Chicago for a few days, and certainly was very dangerous. However the effects of this blizzard were nothing like what the people of Japan are experiencing right now. My thoughts and prayers are with them all.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Me Time

I read somewhere, probably in Real Simple or something, that the happiest people are those who make a point to carve out time for themselves. Personal time. "Me time."

I have never been good at this. For the majority of my life I have lit the candle at both ends and set about the day at a frantic whirlwind pace always feeling as though I was catching up to myself. When I was a junior is high school I took the SAT's, an AP US History Exam, planned my high school prom, ran a fundraiser for this organization,  and began rehearsals for a play all in one week. What?!? Why did I think that pace was maintainable and why did I think it would continually make me happy?

"I function better when I am busy". "I am more focused when I have a lot going on". These were the sorts of excuses I used to justify my inability to say no. Or my inability to spend time alone.

It's taken me the better part of 28 years but for the first time in my life I am realizing just how much I enjoy my "me" time. I have spent many a weekend night with a glass of drinking wine while I organize the kitchen cabinets. I spent a good portion of a recent Saturday rearranging my storage unit and I couldn't be happier. I cook, I take long showers, I make vision boards, I journal, whatever it may's my time.

Now that I have experienced the joy and freedom that comes from having time to oneself I am kind of selfish with it. Of course I still love to be social and enjoy time with my wonderful friends, but I am more aware of when I begin to feel stretched too thin and I make a point to block out an evening for just me.  

The realization of this need makes me feel wise but also incredibly boring at the same time. Is it wrong to say I love to declutter my house on a Friday night? Is this progress or am I in a slump?

Wait...don't answer that. I have a box of photos that need to be put in chronological order and labeled accordingly.

What do you do with your free time? Do you like having me time or do you go crazy? Do you feel you give yourself enough "me" time or do you need to make a point to create more for yourself each week?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

40 Days...

It seems as though the Lenten season is upon us. It's that time of year when Winter slowly...oh so slowly...begins to fade into Spring.  When the multiple layers of outwear begin to shed and the sunlight lingers a little longer. I like this time. You get the cozy Winter nights and crisp Spring days.

For years I have partaken in the practice of giving something up for Lent. I am not a particularly devote religious practicer but this has been a ritual I enjoy. It's a challenge. By giving up something you make space in your life for new possibilities. In years past I have given up Chocolate, Pizza, Salty snacks, Facebook and Alcohol to name a few (the last one will never EVER be repeated). However this year I have struggled to figure out what to give up. After much thought and some encouragement from facebook friends later, I have decided that instead of giving something up, I will take something on. That something will be...blogging!

Clearly I have struggled to get back in the game, and this feels like a perfect kickstart back to the blogosphere. So for the next forty days (and I actually think its ends up being more if you count Sundays in the equation) I will write something every day.  It will be good for me to make time for writing again, and it will force me to share so many of the thoughts I have been thinking over the past few months. I look forward to sharing it all with you!

So here we go...