Saturday, December 14, 2013


Lantern in Alishan
I went on a little Taiwan with a brief stop in Hong Kong.  This was my first trip to Asia and I am so glad I went.  Taiwan is an enchanting place with lovely people that is seriously underrated by the Western world.  I would not have traveled there myself had it not been for being invited to a friend's wedding in Chiayi.  Not only was I able to experience the culture and people in a wedding setting, I was also able to travel around the country easily with their incredible high speed rail and metro system.
Headed to the Wedding Ceremony
Chiayi Night Market

Monday, November 11, 2013

Autumn in Atlanta, GA

I was out in Atlanta, GA this past weekend and was ready to move there as I headed back to Chicago.  The weather was beautiful, housing affordable, people nice and amazing parks to run and play in year around.
Ever gone to a Hibachi grill?  This was a first for me.  Lots of fun for both kids and adults.
My brother introduced me to Turducken.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Aspen, Basalt, a Half Marathon and Consignment Shops

Have you ever gone from sea level to 9,000 feet in less than 24 hours and run a half marathon?  I            know, that's a dare on par with betting someone they can't eat a whole jalapeƱo.  This was not a dare.  I did this on my own accord because I am training for the marathon and needed to get my long weekend run in while on vacation.  I had planned this trip in advance of signing on for the marathon and there just happened to be a half marathon in Aspen at the time I planned to travel there.  Lucky me.

So, here's a rundown of what to expect on a very hilly course (hills at the end of the race...extra awesome), in the hot sun at 9,000 feet after coming from sea level with less than 24 hours to acclimatize; cramping, flaming knee and thigh pain, wanting to cry in the middle of a race and utter and complete exhaustion.  This was the first half I have ever had to walk at several points but somehow I managed to beat my Chicago Women's Half time which I ran about a month ago.  I started out strong but the hills at the end killed me.  The race organizers said that this was a mostly downhill course.  Bastards lied.

Anyway, so I lived and the remainder of the vacation was excellent.  As you can see from the pics, Colorado is never short on breath-taking scenery and fun things to do.  This was my first paddle boarding stint and I loved being much closer to the water and scenery than I would be in a boat.

One last tip on the Aspen and Basalt areas; skip the high end shops and head to the consignment shops.  God bless rich people throwing out gorgeous clothing after wearing it once and sometimes not wearing it at all.  At one consignment shop I saw a Versace dress with the Saks tag still on showing a price of $1,335.  The consignment shop price was $250.  I ended up getting a jacket, skirt and a top for just under $100.  These items, with their gorgeous cut, fabric and design fit me like a glove.  Hooray.         

Monday, July 1, 2013

Strawberries and Cream

Continuing on with Wimbledon traditions, today we have Strawberries and Cream.  The British take this simple dessert very seriously and at Wimbledon, it is as much of a tradition as the tennis whites the players are required to wear.  They pick the strawberries the day before and they arrive at the stadium at 5:30 a.m to be inspected and hulled.  The buttercream used is a double cream with at least 48 percent butter fat.  Apparently, this became a tradition in 1877 when the first Wimbledon event was held.  Both the tournament and the strawberries signaled the arrival of summer as this time of year used to be the only time strawberries were available in the U.K.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday Cocktail - Pimm's Cup for Wimbledon

Traditional Pimm's Cup
I am probably the only American who is from Chicago who is doing a post about our British friends across the pond as we head into the Fourth of July and on the heels of a Blackhawks Stanley Cup victory.  Guess what, I just mentioned both, so we can now get our English drink on to celebrate Wimbledon.

So, if you are going to Wimbledon, or if like me you are wishing you were at Wimbledon, you will want to mix up a Pimm's Cup and break out the cucumber sandwiches and strawberries and cream.  England's food can be hit or miss but there are a few things they do really well such as tea, scones, clotted cream and a Pimm's Cup.  Although, be warned, this is a drink that will knock you out if you are not careful. It is refreshing, tastes of summer fruit and icy cold.  Before you know it, you've downed a few of these and don't know your own name.    

Pimm's Cup
Yield: 1 Tall Cocktail

2 oz. Pimm's No. 1
4 oz. sparkling/carbonated lemonade (you can also use 7-Up, Ginger Ale or lemon-lime soda)
Mint sprigs, cucumber slices, orange slices and sliced strawberries

1.  Add lots of ice to a tall, chilled glass
2.  Add the soda and Pimm's and stir
3.  Garnish with orange, strawberries, mint and cucumbers 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Roasted Cauliflower, Chickpeas with Mustard and Parsley, Title IX and a Half Marathon

If you happen to get into the head of a runner, you will most likely find one of two if not both things; they love to eat or there is something eating at them, be it a demanding or stressful job, trying to come to terms with a difficult childhood, trying to comes to terms with their own child, a divorce or something of that life altering variety that necessitates many hours pounding the pavement.  There is almost nothing that I have not been able to balance in my head during a run and it has proven more therapeutic, much less expensive and far more healthy than therapy, food or shopping.  Bonus; according to the New York Times, running is also an excellent appetite suppressant.
My Mom and Me
This past Sunday, I ran in a Women's Half Marathon and it was a hot and humid slog.  I have run in half-marathons before but this one was particularly important because it was the anniversary of the passage of Title IX, the 1972 law that allowed women to participate in high school and college sports.
I remember asking my Mom once when I was much younger, what sports she did when she was in school.  She said, "Girls didn't participate in sports when I was your age."  I was dumbfounded.  When you think about how far we have come from that being the norm or from the fact that Kathrine Switzer was nearly tackled (see above) while running the Boston Marathon in 1967 by an official screaming at her to get out of his race, makes me thankful for the women who made it possible for me to run in races let alone an entire race dedicated to women.  Pretty incredible.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Friday Cocktail - Dark and Stormy, Bermuda and Tennis

Dark and Stormy

I am not sure I could possibly be any happier to be home or that it is Friday.  Even though I returned from the land where "all the women are strong, all the men are good looking and all the kids are above average", says Garrison Keillor, coming back from any trip makes everything from the smell of my car to my beat up couch blissful.  That's the great thing about business travel; you appreciate home more when you return.

So, I am sure the nagging question you are asking right now is, "What's with the photo of the drink with the tennis racquet?"  Well, what seems like long ago, I took a little trip to Bermuda with my college tennis team.  If there is one thing that Bermuda is known for it would be the Dark and Stormy...that and their pink buses.  So, was I playing tennis or was I drinking Dark and Stormy's the whole time?  Um, both?  See, that is the advantage of playing Division III sports, you can have your spring training in Bermuda and drink your Dark and Stormy too.  Good times.

Dark and Stormy
Yield:  1 Cocktail

2 ounces dark rum
3 ounces ginger beer
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice (I honestly don't remember lime juice in the Dark and Stormy's in Bermuda but a few recipes I looked at included it.  I liked the taste so the lime stays, at least in my recipe.)

Combine the rum, ginger beer and lime juice in a tall glass with plenty of ice cubes.  Give it a stir and drink several after playing a good game of tennis.


Monday, June 17, 2013


I never had a Buckeye before I went to college in Ohio and when I tasted them for the first time, I realized I had definitely been missing out.  Then again, I had never tasted Mac n' Cheese or Tater Tots before college so clearly I was a sheltered child.  Perhaps a little too sheltered because I promptly gained not 15 but about 20 pounds freshmen year.  College: a time to gain copious amounts of knowledge with a big side of weight at an exorbitant cost.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Friday Cocktail - Sidecar, Mirror Images and Father's Day

First, Happy Father's Day to my Dad and my Grandfather.  Below are two generations of Dad's and one up and comer.  My little guy and I are fortunate to have my Dad who has boundless energy and will practice baseball whenever the mood strikes, is a master of water fun at the pool, is the MacGyver of making up games from scratch, will take a kid sledding until frostbite sets in and has an infectious laugh that reaches highest pitch when watching the late/great George Carlin.  He's a tough act to follow and that makes me one lucky daughter.    

As for the cocktail, I am having a Sidecar.  This is a pre-prohibition, Gatsby era drink that thankfully survived the cocktail brain drain the Eighteenth Amendment invited.  Gold in color with a balance of sweet and sour makes it perfect to celebrate the beginning of the weekend. 
My Grandfather
My Son
My Dad and My Grandfather

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Strawberry Pretzel Jell-O Salad

Foodies will probably keep on moving when they see a Jell-O salad post.  Of course, if I need to find someone of that ilk, I need not look any further than a mirror.  Yes, that's right, I was formerly a Jell-O salad snob.  My apologies but everything I have tasted of this salad variety has usually been bland and those pre-packaged Jell-O salads from the grocery store are outright disgusting.  
My thoughts on this flavor combination have been turned on their head with this recipe.  A creamy, cream cheese filling with the salty pretzels and sugary sweet Jell-O balance each other quite well.  This is one of those desserts you need to make for a crowd.  If you don't, you will end up like me and eating half the pan yourself.  Yes, I really did that and still feeling the shame.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Sox Game, Running and Pesto

Parade at The Cell
I started the weekend out by taking my little guy to the Sox game at which he got to parade around the field before the game with his T-Ball team.  The only thing more fun than a baseball game is getting to see your son this excited to be on the baseball field.
Foster Ave. Beach - Run Start Point
As if the baseball game wasn't awesome enough; my run this weekend was much better than last weekend's painful slog.  The weather was perfect, I hydrated and took in GU along the trail which made the difference between being able to function and being a hot mess, like last weekend.
Hot Pink Roses
Then a friend stood in a very long line to get me the Farmers Market Doughnuts, met me back at my place and, wait for it...the doughnuts were warm and they came with gorgeous roses.
Basil for Munch Pesto
Finally, a challenge.  I ate at Munch, a vegetarian restaurant in Oak Park and I ordered the special which was pesto pasta.  The pesto was vegan and I absolutely loved it; so much so that I tried to sweet talk the recipe out of the waitress.  Apparently the recipe came from the owner's Grandmother and it would not be revealed.  In fact, the waitress kept looking nervously over her shoulder like she was divulging C.I.A secrets as I tried to gently coax the ingredients out of her.  I was able to get a few tips on how the pesto was made before she ran off claiming she needed to help another customer.  I will be attempting to replicate that recipe and taste in the coming days.  

Friday, June 7, 2013

Friday Cocktail, Spiced Nuts, Goat Cheese with Honey and a Long Run

Happy Friday, Folks.  A cocktail will be in order this evening after a hectic work week.  I would have more than one if I could but I have 12 miles to knock out tomorrow morning.  Since last weekend my run had shades of the Bataan Death March, I am hoping to make it through this one with toenails intact, knees in place, nausea kept at bay and sustained energy levels so the last two miles are not of me practically walking, like last weekend.  I had a Christopher McCandless moment before I headed out for said run and did not bring any fluids or food/ gels/ sports beans with me.  P.S. My iPod ran out of juice right around mile 7.  So, poster child of prepared I was not.
So what got me to the end of that run?  Food, of course.  Specifically, thoughts of the Oak Park Farmers Market Doughnuts that are served, usually warm, until 1pm every Saturday through the summer and early fall.  I have a deep infatuation with those doughnuts and they were going to be my prize for finishing strong.  Unfortunately, they never even made it to my lips since I was in the doughnut line for all of three minutes before, out of nowhere, I started sweating profusely, my head started spinning and I felt like I was going to dry heave since there was absolutely nothing in my stomach.  I bent over, put my hands on my knees and tried to look normal.  Unfortunately, I looked like some rookie college kid who spent the last night drinking and just happened by the doughnut stand on the walk of shame.  I realized that if I did not get out of that line, the scene would go from bad to scenes out of "The Hangover".

Monday, June 3, 2013

Rainy Weekend in Chicagolandia with Rhubarb and Strawberries

Chicagolandia was pretty wet this past weekend and our temperatures dropped quite a bit on Sunday to 60 degrees.  Good news is that I have not had to water my plants for over two weeks and I just recently found out that thunderstorms are good for your garden because of the nitrogen in the lightening.  For those gardeners out there who are rolling eyes and saying, "DUH" right now, I am sorry.  I didn't know this and I was all, "Who knew?"  Bad news is that my dog freaks out with thunder and lightening, as most dogs do, and I have been comforting her like a traumatized baby over the past couple weeks.  

Friday, May 31, 2013

End of the School Year

Last Day of First Grade
I have been teary-eyed the last couple of days because my little boy is growing up way too quickly as another school year has come and gone and summer is officially here.  My son had a truly outstanding teacher this year and letting him go will be especially difficult.  To say this teacher went the extra mile, truly loves kids, made learning fun and created a wonderful partnership with me would be an understatement.  

Needless to say, my kiddo is very excited for camp, trips we have planned and the endless hours he will undoubtedly spend in the pool.  Here's to the start of sunny days, baseball games, popsicles and summer adventures.  

Rewind: First Day of School

A final video of my son's first grade glass as they end the year.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Spinach Salad with Roasted Vegetables and Spiced Beans

Girl crush?  Yep, looks like I am headed in that direction with yet another Melissa Clark recipe.

I was not planning on making this recipe.  I blame the New York Times with that "Recommended for You" section next to the "Most Emailed" section.  There she was, third from the top with this spinach salad right beneath the "Modern Love" and "Well" columns.  I happened to have most of the ingredients and that practically makes making a dish obligatory.  Plus, after stuffing myself over the Memorial Day weekend, a salad is in order.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Honey-Glazed Pear Upside-Down Cake

My friend and I are training for the Women's Half Marathon in June and once in a while we are able to meet up at Recreation Drive and do our long runs which for me, is anything over 6 miles.  We tend to chat...a lot and our conversation topics range from food and recipes to relationships, travel and decorating.  Lest you think this banter is frivolous, it was on one of those runs that she told me about the Melissa Clark books which has lead me to love cooking and baking even more than I did before.  

Monday, May 20, 2013

Mixed Salad with Yogurt Tahini Dressing from "It's All Good"

At one point or another, we have all said something along these lines, "Sure I could look like Gwyneth Paltrow, if I had her money and could hire a nutritionist, trainer, a nanny and a staff to clean the house."  All of that stuff is true but thankfully, Ms. Paltrow is putting the recipes on full display so we can at least know what to eat.  I was not planning on picking up her new cookbook, "It's All Good", because frankly, her Marie Antoinette musings are a bit much.  However, I was out and about on a random weekend, had a little time to kill before a dinner reservation and decided to stop by Barnes & Noble.  Her cookbook was sitting front and center on that table they have at the entrance of every Barnes & Noble on the face of the earth.  I picked it up and after looking through the recipes, was intrigued.  

Monday, May 13, 2013

Melissa Clark's "Stupendous" Hummus

I don't know what I did wrong with other hummus attempts but they all tasted like plaster, or as how I imagine plaster would taste.

Enter, Melissa Clark.  She made a good case against using canned chickpeas and gave directions for cooking the dried variety in heavily salted water with several garlic cloves.  Then she goes on to gently suggest that peeling each individual pea might bring the hummus to yet another level of "stupendous".  Really, Melissa?  Each individual pea?  A tedious undertaking for sure but then I realized that this is a great way to busy the hands while, say, quizzing your 7 year old on his spelling words.  Surely more economical than going to websites that just make me want to spend money I do not have.  

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


Japanese Garden
How I got this far in life without experiencing the weirdness and beauty that is Oregon is beyond me.

My attempt to describe this liberal fantasyland will be with bullets. When you know you might be in Stumptown/Portland/PDX:

  • You might be in Stumptown when you pack on 10 pounds in 5 days.  Food Trucks, Voodoo Donuts,  Little Bird Bistro, Beer (and I don't even drink beer!), Wine.  Not only are the food and beverages perfection but, wait, it is affordable!  Cocktail in Portland, $8 vs. Chicago for $16.  Tab for the dinners that made me swoon, $28...with tip.  Freaking food lover's nirvana out there.
  • You might be in Oregon when you take 30,000 steps (my pedometer said so) in one day hiking trails along the Columbia River Gorge and Mt. Hood and only saw a fraction of the trails Oregon has to offer.
  • You might be in Portland when the tattoo on your ankle looks downright conservative.  Holy ink, folks.  
  • You also might be in Portland when like the ink, the piercing in your belly and ears are quaint.  A lot of holes and stretched ear lobes out there.
  • You might be in Portland when you cannot walk a block without getting solicited by multiple panhandlers, The Nature Conservancy and a political campaign.
  • You might be in Portland when you hate your car and the Chicago EL after experiencing the cleanliness, quiet and convenience of the Portland public transportation system.  The fare cards are basically on the honor system and the trains glide quietly up to you on the street.  Blissful.
  • You might be in Portland when you are looking at a map at 7:00 A.M. and someone asks ever so kindly, "Can I help you find something? I live here." You say, "Great! Yes!  I am looking for a coffee shop."  The person replies, "Oh, I don't know any coffee shops.  I save money and bring my own coffee."    
  • You might be in Portland when you get bemused looks when you cross the street when the red hand on the walk signal is on yet there are no cars coming.
  • Finally, you might be in Portland when you think you might be living an episode of Portlandia.  That show is no spoof.

Japanese Garden

Multnomah Falls