Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween Birthday!

Today I am most grateful for my husband.  Forty years old, can you believe it?  He still gets carded buying wine.  And he made ME a delicious dinner on the eve of his birthday, complete with a romantic dessert recreation of the dessert we had at the Cantinetta dei Verrazzano in Florence this past May (I'll post the menu later)

Our families are coming over shortly for a pancake breakfast and then tonight, Jason and I are off to Bon Soiree for what promises to be an incredible dinner. 

Happy Birthday Jason! 

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Good Year

Over the last few months I have rekindled my relationship with the library.  It arose initially out of financial concerns.  It seemed frivolous to be spending the amount of money I was on books, especially books that I wasn't sure I would enjoy, let alone love.  I've gotten the last few bookclub books either on loan from friends or from the library.

Over the last month I have been driving out to my suburban office for work.  Pretty much a 40 minute ride in the morning and an hour back in the evening.  Without tv in my home it was a great time to get my current events on with NPR and WXRT.  However, radio can get old after awhile. 

So last time I hit the library I decided to get myself an audiobook.  Now, the Logan Square library, while shiny and new, is still a little lacking in its overall selection of materials.  But I came across "A Good Year" by Peter Mayle.  The brief synopsis:  an overworked and newly fired English banker finds out his uncle has died and left him his estate in Provence.

I just started disc 4 out of 6 and can barely describe how much I'm enjoying it.  While barrelling down I-55 in the doom and gloom of impending winter, I am transported to a fantasy world of chateau, vineyards, simple country living, food and, of course, wine. 

I tend to eschew the idea of living in a fantasy world, preferring to be face to face with reality, and most often, the uglier side of that reality.  But my commute has become a magical time for me, free from the constraints of my quotidian existence.  Imagining myself, as Max, exploring the possibility of an entirely new life.  And in Provence no less.

Today it roused my memories of the time I was lucky enough to have spent in France.  A mere 10 days, but what a trip.  Paris and the Loire valley were incredible.  And it made me grateful, for it was me, myself who traveled by car from Frankfurt to Paris, stopping in the Champagne region along the way.  It is a permanent chapter in my life, my first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, wandering the Rodin museum, the Louvre and my first taste of pigeon, the Hotel Diderot in Chinon and tasting wine with Catherine in her vineyard.

Life IS good. 


I am trying very hard to be grateful for my current lot in life and live in the present as much as possible.  I'm grateful that I have a super cool vintage condo.  I'm grateful that, like last night, my husband and I have the freedom to forgo cooking and meal planning and just head to Goose Island for a spur of the moment burger and a beer at 8:00pm.  I'm grateful for the flexibility afforded to me right now.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Long Distance Running

I came across this interesting article in the New York Times.

One of my resolutions when I quit smoking was to take up running.  Amazing how easy it is to get addicted to poison, but how difficult it is to pick up a good habit.  Although this study gave me some hope.  Maybe I'm not a big giant loser, maybe I just need more patience.  Two solid months to develop a habit seems like forever, but is really a small blip on the radar in the grander scope of a lifetime. 

So, I am finally and regularly living out my running dream.  I can truly go out for a 3 mile run with just a normal amount of effort and little forethought.  I have a regular Tuesday night running partner.  I have long distance virtual training partners and support.  And I get a super high when I'm done with my runs!

That is not to say that there aren't days when I dread it.  Days where I even get so far as to get dressed for my run and still procrastinate for another hour.  But the seed of a habit has been planted. 

The overarching goal of course is better health and mainly to lose weight.  The pounds haven't really dropped yet but I'm currently wearing jeans I couldn't get into before and I have "de-puffed" all around.

The tangible goal is a half marathon in Miami!  January 31st.  The training in the winter is actually the most daunting to me.  But the thought of a beautiful run in beautiful weather during the dead of the Chicago winter keeps me motivated. 

I'll let you know how it goes.  I've been training but the official 12 week program starts on Monday.


This morning I am grateful for my Neti Pot.  I know that some of you may not have heard of the neti pot.  Others of you look horrified when hearing about it.  But all I know is yesterday I felt like garbage and knew it was centered in my head.  I use the Neti Pot last night and I feel great today. 

Remind me to use it more often!

Monday, October 26, 2009


I am grateful for friends with whom to spontaneously spend a Sunday evening.  I am grateful for whole chickens and, I am even finding myself a little grateful for Football.  It makes a good excuse to get out on a Sunday.  But mostly, I am grateful for the friends.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


I am grateful for my niece.  She is nuts, she does tumbling tricks and physical acts that I'm sure will get her hurt or maimed, yet she is always fine.  She loves her princesses and tells it like it is.  She give snuggles and kisses.  And she won't go to bed when her Aunt Amy and uncle J-J are babysitting, but that's ok.  I bet we all slept in this morning.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Ok, I wanted to post this during Friday proper, but was at a friend's house while this discussion arose and she did not have any internet connection.  So this is my Friday post although it will not show up until early Saturday morning. 

So today (Friday) I am grateful for the fact that shortly after college many of my friends married foreigners.

Not only have I learned so much about other cultures, I've also learned how to share a dinner with people with whom you can maybe only share a few words.  It has opened my mind and made me a better well rounded person to be around Germans, Basques, Mexicans, Italians, Ecuadorians, Poles etc.  It helps all of us to appreciate our current way of life while incorporating elements of the people and places we have visited.  It reminds us that the world isn't really that big and that strangers aren't really that strange. 

I am a Gemini, I thrive on the duality and mulifaceted nature of  humanity. If we were all the same I would die of boredom.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


I've had kind of a rough go of it recently.  And it's been made worse by my attitude.  Especially as of late I have been a nasty, ungrateful, green-eyed (and often over-served) B**ch.

I've decided that it's time to take control of this situation (haven't the last couple of years been about empowerment?)

Here's what I'm going to do, every day, once a day between now and Thanksgiving I am going to write down something that I am grateful for.  It can be a person, an experience, a trait of my own or even a material object.  But I'm pretty sure I can come up with at least one thing every single day.  It's time to start viewing my life through rosier colored glasses. 

Feel free to share anything that YOU are grateful for.

Today, I am grateful for my fleece Columbia vest.  While it is not the most fashionable, and I have a tendency to wear it over my work clothes in the office, it provides a sense of security as the days get darker and colder.  It makes me feel warm and fuzzy.  And I'm wearing it right now.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Every Cloud has a Silver Lining

If you're in Chicago, you know that summer is long gone (did it ever really arrive?) and fall is underway.

This early in the season it is easy to enjoy the chill in the air while pulling out the jeans and fleeces.  I have an uncontrollable urge to go apple picking.  The crockpot has come out to play.  My husband and I spent several hours Sunday cleaning, organizing and starting to get settled into the house for the winter.

And while early fall is fine, we all know what's coming.  Freezing temperatures, days when you never see the sun and that mind-numbing malaise of February and March when you "just don't know if I'm going to be able to make it" and "can't imagine why anyone would live here".

But, there is a bright spot, a small, shining red beacon of hope to help us through the long, cold winter.  Sinfully seductive and worth all the effort it requires.

The pomegranate is back.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Black Bean Soup

I meant to make some black bean soup at the same time as the tacos, however, it had to wait until a few days later.  Luckily we're still enjoying the tacos!

2 tbsp olive oil
2 carrots diced
1 onion diced
a couple of cloves of garlic minced
2 tsp cumin
1 tbsp diced jalapeno or 1 tbsp Amy's homemade salsa
2 cans black beans undrained (preferably low sodium since you don't drain them)
1 can diced tomatoes undrained (I used the tomatoes with green chilis)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
lime (or if no lime use red wine vinegar)

 In a large pot heat the olive oil and sautee the onion, garlic and carrot until they are softened.

Add the cumin and the jalapeno.  I didn't have any jalapeno so I added a heaping tbsp of my salsa which is pretty damn spicy.  Add the black beans, the tomatoes and the chicken broth and bring to a boil.

Lower to a simmer, cover and let cook for about 15 minutes or until the carrots are soft.

Pour off 3 cups of the soup, add to a blender and puree.  Return to the pot and continue to simmer. 

At this point I tasted and started seasoning.  The soup definitely needs salt and a dose of black pepper.  Ideally I would have added some lime juice, but since I didn't have any I added a splash of red wine vinegar.  I like my foods pretty spicy so I added a bit more of the salsa, probably a little more than I would have liked.

Jason and I both had a ladle full of the soup with tacos the night I made the soup.  Personally, I think soup is ALWAYS best one day later.  The flavors have time to meld and, in the case of my spicy soup, mellow.  However, even on day one it is definitely a success.

Drink with a New Glarus Spotted Cow. 

TW, this is for you


This is the simplest, most delicious multi night meal out there.  All you need is a crockpot!

In the morning before leaving for work put in the crockpot on low
1 package of boneless chicken breasts (approx 3 breasts)
1/2 - 3/4 jar of Frontera Chipotle Salsa

When you come home, shred the chicken and serve in corn tortillas with extra salsa, shredded cheese, green onions and cilantro (or whatever taco toppings you like).  Eat for the rest of the week.