Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sunday Night Survey: SoLoNoHum Edition

After several weekends full of activity and before the final rush of summer (three more weddings, boyfriend's birthday, my birthday, community reunion, anniversary party, mom/daughter trip), I savored this weekend of staying in SoLoNoHum*. Here's how it went down (in no particular order):

Making: new friends
Cooking: nachos
Ordering: Thai delivery
Eating: EVERYTHING
Drinking: water and wine and iced coffee
Reading: White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Writing: cover letters
Getting tired of: how long it takes my bangs to grow out
Rediscovering: the power of hairspray
Wanting: a new phone
Waiting: one week for it to be eligible for an upgrade
Looking: both ways before I cross the street
Playing: LEGO Harry Potter
Wishing: I didn't always hear my neighbor's conversations
Eavesdropping: nonetheless
Watching: season 2 of Orange is the New Black
Watering: my tomatoes...when I remember
Enjoying: the comfort of routine
Also Enjoying: exploring new places
Wondering: if all Bachelorette parties have to be 80s themed
Loving: the mild temperatures
Hating: the humidity
Opening: a new pair of contacts
Walking: through the Logan Square Farmers Market
Noticing: how people (women) in my neighborhood express themselves (tattoos, quirky shoes, tote bags)
Smelling: a storm
Hoping: my bike doesn't mind a little rain
Needing: this mid-summer recharge 
Wearing: dresses and sweats
Breaking in: new sandals
Feeling: a new blister on my heel
Following: one man's journey to tell his wife he loves her for 100 days
Forgetting: what day (date) it is when we get this far into summer
Thinking: I should be old enough to remember July AND August have 31 days
Knowing: I'm not the only one who still has to do the knuckle trick 

*South of Logan Square/North of Humboldt Park...not a real Chicago neighborhood

Saturday, July 26, 2014

On Writing

On Writing: A Memoir of the CraftOn Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An interesting memoir combined with thoughts on writing that boil down to: Writers Write.

I'm an inexperienced Stephen King reader, but I'm glad I've at least read this. Besides endearing me to his no-nonsense style and explaining a lot about his preferred subject matter, On Writing has practical advice and takes a straightforward approach to "the craft" of writing.

I loved the imagery of taking two completely different things and combining them in a story. According to King, that's where the magic happens--at the intersection of formerly unrelated thoughts, ideas, or questions.

In the end, though, what King tells his readers is that to be a writer is to write. To write the story that begs to be written, to approach it boldly, to trust in its need to be in the world, and to take pride in the act of writing.

He also calls reading a writer's "creative center" ...and that's all a girl like me needs to hear as she continues devouring the pile of books next to her bed.


View all my reviews

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dallas Buyers Club

A biographical drama about an AIDS patient who smuggles in unapproved pharmaceuticals for his personal treatment, eventually expanding his operation to help other patients, which stars Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, and Jennifer Garner, and that won both McConaughey and Leto Oscars for their roles should be a great movie. And I'm sure it was, for some. After watching Dallas Buyers Club, though, all I felt was meh.

I didn't care enough about McConaughey's character, Ron Woodroof, to want him to succeed. I didn't care about him at all, really. And the whole journey from him being homophobic to him barely tolerating Rayon felt unoriginal and oversimplified, like, "Look how tolerant this rough-edged rodeo cowboy has become now that he, too, has AIDS!" It didn't feel real, is what I'm saying, and if there's any way a biographical drama should feel, it's real.

Yes, there were funny bits. And sad bits and interesting bits and even bits that led me to Google the real Ron Woodroof (whose sexual preferences are ambiguous at best and who also had a sister and daughter, both left out of the film). I loved Rayon (though highly stereotyped, she's still lovable). I'm glad we live in a time where movies touching on these subjects--AIDS, homosexuality, the intricacies and shadiness of the FDA/pharmaceutical corporations--are made and well-received. I just wish I cared more about the characters in this particular movie.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Bikeventure

Last year, Jesus and I biked a marathon--not an organized one, we just biked for the better part of a day and it ended up being just over 26 miles. This year we biked almost the same route and when we got home and mapped it online, it turned out to be exactly 26.2 miles. I highly recommend marathon biking--especially when you spread it out over eight hours.
Last year he did a handstand in this same spot...next year, who knows what he'll do.
Our route/schedule was similar to last year: Montrose Beach for gymnastics, then a leisurely bike down the lakefront path to McCormick Place for a free fitness (read: running) expo. We skipped the getting lost downtown part and having dinner at Navy Pier in favor of spending time at a few of our semi-regular hangouts: Myopic Books, Santullo's, and home.
The view of Northerly Island from McCormick Place...it's so relaxing to watch boats come in and out of the harbor.
[We did pass Navy Pier thanks to a bike path detour. I again asked Jesus if he wanted to ride the Ferris wheel, and he again declined. I'll ask again next year. (And the next and the next and the next....)]

We also added in another stop to the beginning of our day: breakfast with Andrea and Greg! We met at Over Easy Cafe and took in some complementary coffee before our table was ready. Then over some great scrambled eggs and french toast, we caught up--it's been three years since we've seen each other!--and decided next time the kiddos HAD to come along.

A whale filled with plastic water bottles...and the Buckingham Fountain strategically captured behind it like its blowhole.
Once we got home (a little more tired than last year--maybe we didn't grab as many B vitamins at the expo?), we started season 2 of The X-Files. There's something about early 90s TV that appeals to us. (We're watching Sliders next.)

Now Jesus just has to get a bike of his own (he borrowed Brit's) so we can keep bike-venturing in the second half of the summer. A trip to the botanical gardens perhaps?
It takes a real man to ride a lady's bike...in his girlfriend's shorts.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sunday Morning Shortlist Vol 2

I hope you have your morning coffee ready...and/or mostly consumed since it's almost Sunday afternoon. Here come some of my favorite things from the past few weeks--things that made me laugh, think, and pause (a tough thing to do in my online life).
Northerly Island from McCormick Place (credit mine)
One blogger's heartfelt challenge to go where you are called.

How I feel about rosé.

Margaret Atwood's summer story.

Starting tomorrow, all of The New Yorker's articles (since 2007) will be free! But only for three months, so get reading.

Speaking of reading, Zadie Smith on reading addiction.

We can't all be this lucky, but Jami Attenberg's story of bike recovery still warmed my heart.

Have you seen Weird Al's Blurred Lines parody?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Shout Outs & Shame Ons Vol 2

Do you ever have a really awesome Friday that also kind of sucks? Welcome to my today.

Shame Ons:

The dumb biker who went through a red light on my commute, for making me wait at my green for him to finish crossing and for giving us law-abiding bikers a bad reputation.

Canon's MX922 printer, for being defective and making me spend several hours trying to fix it.

Customer Service Rep at Canon who told me to "unplug, wait ten seconds, and plug it back in"....guess what...THAT DIDN'T HELP.

My fellow block members, for posting No Parking signs on my street for tomorrow's block party--no, I don't mind the No Parking--what I mean is: my fellow block members, for not inviting me to tomorrow's block party. I've lived at this address for three years, you'd think that would warrant an invitation. Or maybe more of a heads-up than a No Parking sign posted the night before the party. RUDE.

Shout Outs: (I'm hoping this list grows as the night goes on.)

DAN, the second Canon Customer Service Rep I spoke to gets the A++ Shout Out of the Day for helping me through printer troubleshooting at work. When our combined efforts still didn't fix the issue, he decided to send a replacement, but before that he calmly brought down my stress levels with his joking and easygoing manner.

Dan, another shout out for these great one-liners: "It's easier than falling off a log, and only half as dangerous!" and "I have no musical talent...I can play a mean radio though!"

Zappos, for free returns.

Freeze Pops, for never disappointing.

My bed, for never judging.

My past self, for washing dishes before I went to work.

Redbox, for the random free movie and weekend movie discount.

My neighbors, for playing their radio loud enough for me to not have to play my own music. (Okay, yes, this started as a Shame On...but I'm in a better mood after recounting the good stuff, so this is now a not-sarcastic Shout Out.)

This video.

My dinner, for hopefully manifesting itself soon...? I guess I should work on that. I hope everyone had a challenging yet rewarding Friday. Have a good weekend!

Juicy/Jucy Lucy

Did you recently come up on some grass fed beef at your Aldi? Need to use up some leftover buns from a Fourth of July cookout? Want to try a fun twist on a classic? Grill some Juicy/Jucy Lucys tonight!

All I know of the "history" of the JL is that it's from Minnesota. This Wikipedia article details more of the Who Did It First debate. None of that really concerns me. What I wanted to discover when I decided to try out this inside-out cheeseburger was if it lived up to the hype. Answer: Yes...ish.

The truth is, whether you put your cheese inside or on top of your burger, you're getting cheese and beef between two buns and that's always going to be pretty awesome. The joy of hamburgers, for me at least, has always been in the toppings and condiments. Regardless, it's something to try. And it's dinner on the table.

Start with your beef. Do what you do with your hamburgers: salt, pepper, etc, and form into patties.
Slap some cheese on the middle of each patty and bring up the sides, completely covering the cheese in the beef. Reform into a patty, keeping the cheese on the inside.
Grill burgers as normal. Keep in mind the cheese will get hot, melt, and possibly shoot out the side of the burger as you cook. If not, it will definitely do so when you bite into it--be careful not to burn your tongue!
Dress your burger to your tastes (mine: sauteed mushrooms and onions, lettuce, and mustard). Dig in!

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Vote with Your Dollar

I could dedicate this post to how much I love Aldi (prices, products, business model, convenient location...), BUT that's not what I need to say right now. Instead, let me just talk about their business model and how it makes a very important political point.

Aldi is not known for their brand variety (another thing I love). With few to zero competing brands, you get one low price and less time debating between similar products. This also means they can bring in a new product (from one of their brands) and "test" it out--not versus other brands, but just as a grocery item in general. When the test products sell, Aldi continues to stock them. Makes sense, right?

That practice is called Voting With Your Dollar, and it applies to anything you spend money on--groceries, clothes, education, heath, transportation, housing...where your dollar goes, your politicians and further money/support follows. In the Aldi world, a vote with your dollar means they keep stocking the things you like. Most recently, that's meant organic/grass fed beef--yes, at Aldi, and for about half the price of beef from Whole Foods!

On a grander scale (and in theory--I realize there are lots of other things at play), a vote with your dollar means more funds allocated to public transit (because you--and a lot of other people--took the bus or biked instead of driving), locally-sourced products (because your farmer's market is more popular than your Wal-Mart), or movies with no vampires (because everyone went to see the Tina Fey/Amy Poehler comedy instead). Dollars sent to the bank, the thrift store, or to airlines are all votes--for saving, conscious consumption, and travel.

I think you get the idea. Send your Washingtons on a mission. Start small--find local products at your grocery store and support independent businesses you trust and admire. Your (and my) buying habits won't change world economies (not overnight), but we can influence our corners of the planet and feel good about the money we spend. At the very least, my personal "dollar votes" will ensure cheese and wine are always stocked at my Aldi.