Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sunday Night Survey: Here Fishy Fishy Edition

How was your unseasonably warm but also snowy weekend? I hope you took advantage of the weather and got outside, at least until it decided to be winter again. I for one left the house several times, nearly unheard of in late January. Saturday was for errands and making myself feel human again (read: taking a bath) after a very structured week of work. Today was for play: Jesus and I visited Shedd Aquarium since it was free and we haven't been in a while. Other events and adventures of the weekend:
Taking: it alllll the way back to elementary school by
Prepping: tater tot casserole for tonight's dinner.
Running: more than I have in a long time, but really not that far.
Rolling: out some sore muscles.
Streaming: all available episodes of Transparent on Amazon, since it was free yesterday. SO GOOD.
Drinking: six cups of tea per day, on average.
Eating: coconut donuts.
Taking: my first bath in ages and
Wondering: why don't I do that more often??
Reading: The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert and loving it.
Walking: uphill into the snow on our way to Shedd.
Exploring: coral reefs, swamps, and rivers.
Seeing: dolphins and beluga whales and penguins and sea lions.
Watching: families interact.
Feeling: grateful to get back home and in sweats.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

100 Books to Read in a Lifetime

Do you agree with Amazon's list of 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime? I'm not one to judge a list of books, but I do like how varied (skill level-wise at least) this one is. I've read 45 (ish). There are a few that I tried reading, but couldn't get into. Maybe I just wasn't reading them at the right time in my life. I was glad to at least recognize a large majority of these!

Relæ: A Book of Ideas

Relæ: A Book of IdeasRelæ: A Book of Ideas by Christian Puglisi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sum it up in a sentence (or two): Part cooking theory book (as opposed to practical cookbook), part restaurant biography. Puglisi describes how Relæ came to be--from the brick and mortar aspects, to hiring, to recipe creation, food sourcing, and the culture and values of Relæ.

First thoughts: I would keep this book on my coffee table rather than in the kitchen. It's a conversation starter and easy to read at random or browse through.

Favorite quotes:
"I consider life to be a means to enjoy as much great food as possible." p 66

"Great cooking comes from great ingredients, not great machinery." p 172

Recommended for: foodies, chefs, eaters, restaurateurs.

More thoughts: This book of ideas is like no book/cookbook I've ever read. It's like the blueprint for Puglisi's restaurant--everything is cross-referenced so that it reads like a delicious textbook. The layout, photos, cover, and jacket are simple, straightforward, and beautiful. Puglisi is likeable and a skilled narrator. Even knowing I'm probably not going to cook anything featured at his restaurant, I was still curious about his style and food beliefs.

Editor's Note: I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

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Friday, January 23, 2015

A Girl and Seven (or so) Pizza Places

I treat this blog like an online scrapbook/journal: part rambling thoughts, part descriptions and reviews of events I attend, places I travel, food I cook, books I read, and movies I watch. One thing I'm missing is descriptions of places I've eaten, at least as a consistent feature. I regularly reference this space when I'm trying to remember where I was on a certain day or what I did for a holiday, and remembering great meals with great people is something I'd like to do better at.
For my first round of reviews, I decided to group together similar restaurants and share only my favorites. And since it's a Friday, I'm going to start with pizza. Pizza in Chicago is a matter of pride and loyalty, but I grew up on thin crust so that's where my pizza love truly lies.

It should also be noted that tonight Jesus and I made our own pizza (bbq chicken...a new one for both of us) as much as I've enjoyed these places, obviously I still like to sling my own dough on a Friday night.
My Pie Pizza
Good for: deep dish & delivery. This is my go to for Chicago style, if I have a craving for it or a guest requests it. It's a more local option than Giordano's, which is my runner up for Chicago style pizza.
Ambiance: I've only had it delivered, but I know the place is super small.
Notes: you can collect My Pie Points from every pizza box. 20 gets you a free pie!

John's Pizzeria
Good for: huge thin crust pizzas, delivery, takeout, or dine-in. This is the type of pizza I grew up on. Giant, square-cut, and with a cracker-like crust.
Ambiance: old school pizza joint, complete with gingham-style table cloths.
Notes: Make sure to get your free cola! 1 or 2 liters depending on how much you spend.

Piece Pizza
Good for: hanging out with friends, especially ones with differing tastes--Piece specializes in individual pies with loads of options for toppings--and three different sauces. Again, thin cracker-like crusts rule here.
Ambiance: bar & grill meets open air eatery. Lots of natural light makes it a great place to meet up anytime.
Notes: Piece is also a brewery, so come thirsty!

Dante's Pizzeria
Good for: date night, dinners out, something different. Dante's serves New York style pizzas influenced by Dante's Inferno. Make sure to try one of their specialties, you won't find them anywhere else.
Ambiance: casual-hip.
Notes: Order by the slice or by the pie. Can't really go wrong.

Santullo's Eatery
Good for: slices, New York style, lunch or late night. The sandwiches are good too!
Ambiance: casual. Feels like a campus staple, except it's not on a campus.
Notes: they have vegan/vegetarian options!

Honorable Mention:
The Boiler Room: The pizza is good, but man oh man do I hate how loud it is in there. It's a bar first, then pizza place. (Am I old? I'm old.)

Special Shout Out:
Ian's Pizza in Madison, WI. Not just because if I'm in Madison with Jesus we have to come here. They offer pizza by the slice, toppings you've only dreamed of (Mac & Cheese. Jerk Chicken. something called Drunken Ravioli.), and as many organic and locally-sourced ingredients possible. Awesome (huge) salads. So yeah, Ian's gets a shout out.

On my To Try List:
Pizzeria Da Nella: It will never be to soon to taste Neapolitan pizza again. 
Dimo's: the Ian's of Chicago (no, seriously. Current menu options include Chicken n' Waffles and S'mores. Plus lots of vegan options.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

My January Poem

If I want to stay creative, I have to create. Without really committing to it, I'm committing to posting at least one poem each month on here. I can write more than one, but I'd like to have at least one that I share. 

January is both conducive and restrictive when it comes to poem writing. Life is ripe with metaphors--things are fresh and new and positive--it's all a little overwhelming. This mood is kinda perfect for poetry, if there's time after all the resolution-keeping. Which is why I made poetry one of my life intentions in 2015. Make it a priority, make it happen.

Quiescence (or Discernment)

When you start reading medical journals for "research,"
that's when you wonder how you got to where you are now.
Where you are isn't bad, but it is unexpected, like every
twist and turn your life has made:
a series of switchbacks on a mountain,
all leading to the top,
taking the longest (and most logical, in hindsight) path.

Recently, the twists and turns have straightened themselves out.
Your life hums along, the same yesterday as tomorrow;
for once you have a chance to settle in and enjoy the view.
You’re not at the top yet, just a plateau. For now.

You like to play a game called "Did You Ever Think?"
It involves asking yourself periodically,
"Did you ever think a year ago you'd be where you are today?"
The answer's always "No."

(For now.)

Monday, January 19, 2015

This Is Where I Leave You

This Is Where I Leave You is about one family whose dysfunction brings them tears and frustration while bringing the audience laughter and joy. Its dark humor fits the characters and story well, which is no miracle considering Jonathan Tropper wrote both the screenplay and the book on which it's based.

The Altman children are gathering for their father's funeral, plus one week of sitting shiva with their mother (Jane Fonda)--even though they all have other things to worry about in their lives. Judd (Jason Bateman) is dealing with the fallout of finding out that his wife has been cheating on him. Wendy (Tina Fey) is raising her two kids while her husband spends most of his time on the phone with (or traveling to) London for business. Paul (Corey Stoll) and his wife Annie (Kathryn Hahn) have been trying (unsuccessfully) to have a baby). Phillip (Adam Driver) is still figuring out what being an adult means.

Throw in a few nosy neighbors, a couple of old flings, and a trip to temple, and this week turns into the most emotionally-draining and challenging week in Altman family history. Which is all the better for viewers. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll hug the people you watch with. Then you'll want to read any Tropper you haven't yet, because as brilliant as the cast of This is Where I Leave You is (and they are), the story and dialogue are what really take the cake here.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sunday Night Survey: High School Nostalgia Edition

Well, that football game didn't go how I would have liked, so let's talk about something more exciting. I got to see high school friends this weekend! It was a short reunion, but oh so needed and oh so fun. Now I'm ready for another warmish week in Chicago, after I watch another football game to help me forget about the one that just ended.

Hating: waking up early for a morning shift.
Loving: how photogenic the city is at that hour.
Finishing: Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham and really liking it.
Riding: the train to work & the bus to play.
Enjoying: the 40 degree weather (way different from both 0 and 20).
Meeting: my friend's brother's girlfriend and realizing she's already met both of my siblings.
Drinking: a gin and champagne cocktail we named The Kicker.
Eating: Thai food and pretending we were at the Great Wall.
Reminiscing about that time we ordered in Great Wall our senior year, among other things.
Playing: True American and card games like we were in college.
Staying: out only until midnight.
Ordering: a late night torta.
Making: new memories with old friends.
Waking: up to someone vacuuming.
Reading: The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert and very excited to hear about her newest book, coming out later this year!
Watching: the Packers lose that game.
Hoping: at least the Colts can make it to the Big Game.
Planning: a super comforting dinner to improve my mood.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Tiny Beautiful Things

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear SugarTiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sum it up in a sentence (or two): The subtitle pretty much says it: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar.

First thoughts: There is a lot of love in this collection of letters--me to Strayed, Strayed (Sugar) to everybody.

Favorite quotes (and basically the rest of my review):

"You loathe yourself, and yet you're consumed by the grandiose ideas you have about your own importance. You're up too high and down too low. Neither is the place where we get any work done." p 58

"The story of human intimacy is one of constantly allowing ourselves to see those we love most deeply in a new, more fractured light. Look hard. Risk that." p 63

"...close your eyes and remember everything you already know. Let whatever mysterious starlight that guided you this far guide you onward into whatever crazy beauty awaits." p 130

"I hope when people ask you what you're going to do with your English and/or creative writing degree you'll say: 'Continue my bookish examination of the contradictions and complexities of human motivation and desire;' or maybe just: 'Carry it with me, as I do everything that matters.' And then just smile very serenely until they say, 'Oh.'" p 134

"Don't lament so much about how your career is going to turn out. You don't have a career. You have a life. Do the work. Keep the faith." p 351

"The useless days will add up to something." p352

Personal takeaway: BE HUMBLE. (Consider that as close as I'll get to One Little Word for 2015.)

Recommended for: sensitive souls, people going through transition, lovers, fighters, and dreamers.

Final thoughts: I loved Tiny Beautiful Things, but there was a point about 3/4 of the way through where I was like, man, this is emotionally exhausting. To read all of these heartfelt letters people have written Sugar--about falling in and out of love, loved ones dying, career troubles, affairs, sickness, etc, etc, etc--and then to read her equally heartfelt responses (filled with their own separate accounts of love and sex and death) was humbling and tiring. In their original form, they'd be spread out over weeks and months and perhaps less taxing than when read one after the other. Also, I'm really good at projecting myself into other people's lives and struggles. So many letters felt like they were written to me.

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