Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Beer Bread Muffins

I made these muffins a little prematurely (it's nearly 80 degrees outside, which is not a temperature at which I want to turn my oven on), but we have more beer in our fridge than either Jesus or I care to drink and I really wanted to try them out. Despite sweating long into the evening, I'm glad I did. They're super easy and tasty.

Beer Bread Muffins (adapted from this recipe by My Wild Kitchen)

3 c flour (she uses self-rising; I made my own by adding baking powder and salt, below)
1 1/2 tbsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp sugar
1 12-oz bottle of beer (I used Corona)
2 tbsp butter (I used coconut/palm oil spread)

Preheat oven to 375.
Grease muffin tin.
In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients.
Pour beer over and stir until combined.
Spoon mixture evenly into muffin cups.
Bake for 25-30 minutes.
While the muffins are baking, melt butter in a dish.
When muffins just start to turn golden brown, brush butter on top of them.
Bake for another 5-7 minutes.
Enjoy warm!

According to this recipe, the muffins aren't as good the next day, but I'll be putting that to the test tomorrow.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Folded Clock: A Diary

The Folded Clock: A DiaryThe Folded Clock: A Diary by Heidi Julavits
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sum it up in a sentence (or two): Heidi Julavits chronicles two years of her life in diary form, then "folds" the entries into this book.

First thoughts: Solid concept, not a fan of the execution.

Expand on that: I went between understanding and relating to various entries and being put off by her writing style and some of the content. Some parts felt too self-aware and that knocked me out of the narrative. I think I had high hopes for this book based on other reviews and my own personal relationship to journaling, so I was disappointed that I couldn't relate and/or didn't care about the story.

Favorite quotes:
"At a certain point, it seems more polite to just become the person people assume you to be." -p98

"There's nothing she hasn't thought of, and thought of and thought of, poor woman." -p112

"I wanted to escape my head because my head is so stupid these days. I wanted to be inside someone else's head." -p201

Final thoughts: Okay, so this book wasn't for me, or at least not for the person I am now. Lots of things matched up: writer, Rome, diary-lover, internal processor, ... but I felt out of sync with Julavits. Am I too young? Just not in the same head space? Who knows. I curious to hear about other readers' experiences.

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Friday, August 28, 2015


What do you get when you cross an alley in the Loop, one hundred or so Chicagoans of all ages, and steampunk? This month's ACTIVATE, a "pop-up urban experience" that brings together artists, musicians, and performers for a one night celebration of creativity. Jesus and I went last night to see what all the fuss is about, and we were impressed by the unique set up. We saw fire spinners (aka, my former neighbors), an aerial acrobat, body painting, and lots of people in costume. All while enjoying a complimentary drink and frozen popcorn (strange, yet satisfying).

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Packing Up

Not much matters in August,
at least until the air cools;
then thoughts of September roll in
like a breeze off the lake.
We resign ourselves to sweaters and closed windows,
but keep our tank tops within reach.
We pack up our summer,
begin crossing the boundary to fall,
leave everything the way we found it so it's ready for next year.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Chicago Botanic Garden

I recently lamented/celebrated the coming of fall - the air is getting cooler and some mornings have that "fall" smell, something I'm not sad about, but then again, not something I'm quite ready for in late August. I have a few more things to do first, like visit the Botanic Gardens:

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Invisible Monsters

Invisible MonstersInvisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sum it up in a sentence (or two): Our narrator, a disfigured beauty queen, describes the events prior to and after her accident, all leading up to her former best friend's wedding.

First thoughts: What am I reading?

Favorite quotes:
"It's a hundred generations removed from anything original, but the truth is aren't we all?" -p14

"...the only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open." -Brandy Alexander, p86

"Whatever you're thinking, a million other folks are thinking. Whatever you do, they're doing, and none of you is responsible. All of you is a cooperative effort." -Brandy Alexander, p218

"What you run from only stays with you longer. When you fight something, you only make it stronger." -Brandy Alexander, p220

Final thoughts: Lots of them. Invisible Monsters has a slow start, and takes some time to get used to the narration, but then BAM. Things start falling into place and the pieces all connect. This is a great narrative about the impermanence of beauty and identity, origins, and the evolution of self.

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Friday, August 21, 2015

Chain, Chain, Chain...

We all have them: our favorite chain restaurants/fast food joints. While it's nice to eat at a locally-owned or independent eatery, sometimes you want something more familiar, and something you know won't disappoint. My favorite chains go even further by serving high-quality food (think happy meats, vegan/vegetarian options, and plenty of ways to personalize the meal) that doesn't break the bank.

Favorite Burgers: Meatheads
Good For: When you want a specialty burger and a big plate of fries.
Ambiance: Meatheads feels a lot like Culver's to this Wisconsin girl - servers bring your food out to you and check in while you dine, but it's definitely casual.
Notes: I've not branched out into their non-burger options, so I can't comment on those, but the burgers are great!

Favorite Vegan: Native Foods Cafe
Good For: When you don't feel like eating animal products, or want to try something new.
Ambiance: Hip and casual.
Notes: I reviewed Native Foods in my original Vegan post, but wanted to re-establish it as one of my favorite chains.

Favorite Noodles: Noodles & Co
Good For: When you can't agree on what to have for dinner - noodles complement a lot of meals!
Ambiance: Casual and fun.
Notes: Join their email list for coupons and a free bowl during your birthday month (which reminds me...).

Favorite Mexican/Tex-Mex: Moe's Southwest Grill
Good For: When you're sick of Chipotle.
Ambiance: Fun and cool.
Notes: Guac isn't extra!

Favorite Mediterranean: Olive Mediterranean Grill
Good For: When you're in the mood for something you don't normally cook.
Ambiance: Cool and classy.
Notes: Get the schwarma. And the lentil soup. And the falafel. And pita. You know what, you just can't really go wrong here.