Monday, June 30, 2014


The mermaid isn’t yours any more than
the wine rack or wicker ottoman are:
they were all here when you moved in.
If anything, you inherited her, like a stray scarf
or a forgotten book fused into the trappings of a home.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sunday Night Survey: Solitary Walk Edition

In my quest for a better blog, I've come across some beautiful posts, layouts, and ideas. This is one that's featured on pretty much every life and style/home and garden/mommy blog, and for good reason. It's short, simple, and sweet. So much so that I think even a travel/food/hodgepodge writer-blogger can pull it off. (Find the original here.)

For my first "taking stock" list, I'm going way specific (and also adding/changing the original list to fit my needs): Taking stock of my impromptu Sunday night walk to Subway for a meal that didn't require using sources of heat in my apartment.

Seeing: the first open fire hydrant of the season
Hearing: the Blue Line, booms and pops of fireworks
Making: an attack plan for the week
Sipping: a Sprite as I walked the three blocks back home
Wanting: one more day in a weekend
Looking: pink from a day in the sun
Playing: with the idea of several new stories
Enjoying: the hours after sunset and before dark
Wondering: why the little boy walking with his mom ran to give me a hug
Loving: that he did so joyfully!
Hoping: this Subway still has falafel
Marveling: at front stoop conversations in several languages
Smelling: fresh-baked bread, the sulfur burn of an exploding firework
Wearing: a sun dress, with pockets!
Following: the flight lines of lightning bugs in an empty lot
Noticing: newly installed alley lights
Thinking: I'm glad I took a nap today
Feeling: content
Opening: my apartment door and feeling a rush of warm air

Wholeness > Happiness

We are halfway through 2014, and I'm rethinking my Happiness Jar. Not because it hasn't been fun or enlightening to pick one (or three) of my happiest moments each day. I'm just not sure if "happiness" is what I'm really, deep down in my bones, at the core of my being, seeking out in this life.

Don't get me wrong: I love, love, LOVE being happy. I love the feeling of elation I get when I've taken care of my responsibilities and my time is all mine. But in my life as a whole, I'm seeking, well, wholeness.

This piece offers a different perspective on "happiness," one that I'm cool with and one that explains this wholeness v happiness concept.

Part of being human is being sad. And weird and relaxed and awestruck and grateful and restless and in love and disgusted and the WHOLE entire gamut of emotions and states of being. We were created for MORE than happiness. That's kinda cool, right? When I have dark nights of the soul, it just means I have a soul. (I don't remember who originally said that...I think one of my professors planted the idea in my head, and it's gotten me through disappointments and defeats ever since.)

I'm no longer trying to list my happy moments--I know I have them, every day, usually more than once--now I want to remember my whole moments. Every Most nights I think to myself, What made me whole today? I am more than sunny days and silly songs. I run deep, and this is good. My Wholeness Jar fills, and this is good.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Life Would Be Perfect if I Lived in that House

Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived in That HouseLife Would Be Perfect If I Lived in That House by Meghan Daum
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a chronic furniture rearrange-er and person who loves living spaces, this was a memoir suited perfectly to me. When I was younger (like elementary school younger) I used to pore over blueprint catalogs like some girls pored over fashion magazines. All it took was a cleverly/practically designed house to make me think "home"...and start the process of moving in my imaginary furniture. (Remember, I was like 10. I "owned" several keepsake necklaces and a teddy bear named Teddy.)

This collection would have gotten five stars in my book if it was organized by house/apartment, with attached blueprints. Because, why not? If I wrote this, each chapter would have been named after the place I was living in/moving to/buying. Starting in college: Burke, 3M, The Banger, 420 Grant, Club M-dub, The Naw...I like to name my homes, what can I say?

Other than that personal desire, I related to a lot of what Daum wrote. Home is where the heart is, and sometimes the heart wanders. I love my dark wood trim and in-apartment laundry facilities and relaxing porch, but I'll be damned if I don't fantasize about what I would do with an extra foot in my closet-at-the-top-of-the-stairs bedroom.

This book would be perfect for lovers of real estate, voracious readers, those in restless reflection, and anybody with the insight to realize that where we live is tied up into who we are, at least on some level. Is it a tad self-indulgent? Yes, of course. It's a memoir. Daum's descriptions and honest divulgations more than make up for that.

View all my reviews

Friday, June 27, 2014

My Farmers Market is Better than Yours

Chicago Reader recently named the Logan Square Farmers Market "Best" of 2014. They also won in 2012 and 2013. I really have nothing to brag about, since I'm not a vendor or organizer of this event, butttttttt...I am a Logan Square resident, so brag I will.

 This market is varied without being overwhelming. It's not 500 stands all selling produce--they've got meat, cheese, eggs, ice cream, dog treats, spices, alcohol, and food prepared on-site. The atmosphere is congenial, the vendors are engaging, and while I don't always buy something, there's always something I want to get. (Usually it's grilled cheeses by the handful or ice cream by the pint.)

Brings me back to high school band days...oh how I miss baking playing on hot days...
The entertainment isn't bad either. Last week a guy played his fiddle at one end of the market while a high school band had a jazz session in the middle. The other side featured gorgeous cut flowers and valet bike parking. (You know you're in Logan Square when...) All in all, this is a great place to chill on a Sunday morning/afternoon. With an iced coffee in hand, you could do worse than idling over a beautiful array of mushrooms and snap peas, dreaming of the meals you could make with these fresh ingredients.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Mango Pizza

Got any mangoes at your house? Here's a crazy idea: slice them up and toss them on a pizza. I was inspired by hunger on Friday, and this recipe helped me make my dream into reality. I didn't use black beans or zucchini, just mango, onion, red pepper, and cilantro. The salsa doesn't overpower at all, which is nice because I wanted a pizza, not a tostada. Bonus: I got to use herbs from my garden (cilantro, oregano, and basil)!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this in tandem with watching season one of HBO's adaptation. I have to say, I'm now on season three and haven't picked up either A Clash of Kings or A Storm of Swords. I enjoy watching it, whereas I never totally got into the book. Sure, some character POVs were engaging and I relished those chapters, but as a whole, I'm not as impressed as I feel like I should have been.

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Super Secret Tarts (and a brownie update)

Want to know my secret recipe for awesome summer tarts? Here it is:

1 box of pre-made pie dough (comes in a pack with enough for two crusts)

Preheat oven to 350.
Roll out the dough once it's thawed, and, using the top of a cup, cut smaller-size circles out.
Use smaller circles of dough to line each cup in a muffin tin.
In a bowl, combine berries (any/all...this weekend I used blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries).
Sprinkle sugar to taste over berries and stir/toss to combine.
Fill each little crust with enough berries so it's nearly brimming.
Bake until fruit juices start bubbling and edges of crust begin to brown, about 45 minutes. (I think? I just put them in and checked on them every 10 minutes or so.)

That's all! I'm sure there are very fancy tart recipes, but I've found that all I really want in a tart is baked berries and flaky crust. There's much to be said for home-making your own pie crusts at least once, to understand the labor of love that it is, but pre-made crusts are one of the food industry's greatest inventions. This recipe also translates well to pot pies, quiches, and anything that you want baked into a crust: buy the rolled dough from the store, fill it with fruits, veggies, cheese, eggs, and/or meat, and pop it in the oven. Sometimes the best recipes are the simplest.

Black Bean Brownie Update

Remember when I made some pretty great brownies with no flour or butter? I tried them again today, this time making a caramel variation. I followed the recipe, but once I had the batter in the pan, I dropped two heaping tablespoons of dulce de leche in opposite corners. Taking a knife, I swirled the dulce around until it was evenly distributed. Then I sprinkled some chocolate chips on top for good measure. Baked for 15 minutes at 350 and helllloooooo Friday night. I don't think I'll go back to non-dulce brownies for a long time.

Happy Friday, happy cooking, and happy eating!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Summer Weekend in the City

Despite missing the Bluesfest this year, I still managed to make the most of this weekend's festivals and activities. There's always something going on somewhere in Chicago, and this is never more true than in the summer!

Fiestas Puertorriqueñas (Puerto Rican Festival)
This festival is known for its debauchery and passionate displays of Puerto Rican pride, but for this white girl, it's a chance to pig out on deep fried food in the name of culture. It also takes place in Humboldt Park, which is less than a mile from my apartment. Jesus and I went on Friday night for dinner and marveled at the amount of people between bites of alcapurrias, papas rellenas, and pastelillos.

Movies in the Park
Jesus and I didn't stay super long at PR Fest because we had another activity planned for the evening: watching The Goonies at Revere Park for our first Movies in the Park of the summer. I've never been to Revere before, so I'm glad I got to expand my Chicago Parks horizon while enjoying a classic movie under the stars. (We could actually see a few!...among planes, Mars, and--according to Jesus--a UFO.)
Disclaimer: This is actually from Holstein Park...I caught the beginning of another MITP (Groundhog's Day) on Sunday during a walk and decided to document it since my phone died before I could snap a pic on Friday at Revere.
Father's Day
I got to chat with my own dad Sunday morning (and thank him again for building my bed--after a week of solid sleeping I could give him solid reviews) before making tarts and heading west to spend the day with Jesus's dad (and the rest of his family). I consider myself pretty lucky to have places to spend holidays when I can't make it back to Wisconsin. Whether with roommates and their families or Jesus and his family, having a solid community here is a big reason why I can call Chicago home.
homeward bound: belly full, mind relaxed

Saturday, June 14, 2014

You Are Here

You Are Here: From the Compass to GPS, the History and Future of How We Find OurselvesYou Are Here: From the Compass to GPS, the History and Future of How We Find Ourselves by Hiawatha Bray
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a relevant and informative read, and, as someone who loves a good map/atlas, enjoyable as well. It took me a little bit to warm up to the first chapters, but I got more and more interested as I got deeper into the book (chapters are presented chronologically). On the day I finished, a mapping car from HERE Maps actually drove past me while I biked to work, reaffirming how immersed I am in location technology.

Even though I'm new to the smartphone game (I just got my first one in February), it was easy to see how easy we of the 21st century have it, navigation-wise. The description of the first cell phones/911 calls associated with them were heart-breaking. I can't imagine being hurt and having no way of letting emergency services know where I was. On the flip side, I am a little creeped out by how easily anybody with the right information could locate me (one of the reasons why I keep my phone's GPS function switched off and rarely include locations on social media posts).

What's exciting about the future of mapping is the high quality of maps available to us as consumers. Maps are being created and modified/corrected daily by teams of passionate amateurs and anybody with access to a smartphone or computer. And these new maps aren't just of geographic landscapes--the insides of buildings are being mapped (think museums, malls, large/confusing structures) along with tourist destinations around the world, complete with photos and other relevant information.

It's a great time to be a traveler/world citizen/student of the globe!

Note: I received this book for free through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. This review is voluntary and opinions are my own.

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

MADcation: Saturday & Sunday

It wasn't long after our morning walk to Trader Joe's/Crescendo Espresso for breakfast that Mom and Dad rolled into town. Mom took control of ironing leftover wrinkles while the boys decided on ties and I applied eyeliner for the first time in a few weeks. We grabbed a pre-wedding drink at a bar a block away from the church and still got there early enough to peruse the program and do a little people watching from across the aisle.
The wedding itself was simple and gorgeous, leaving out unnecessary flair without scrimping on the meat of the ceremony. Tears were shed, followed by sympathy tears, and soon enough bride and groom held their hands in the air, victorious. While the wedding party headed out for photos and other guests found their way back to the hotel or local bars, Mom, Dad, Jesus, Quinn, and I took ourselves on a family date to The Melting Pot.
It's safe to say I ate enough during that dinner to last me until the next wedding. I slathered cheese on bread, chips, and vegetables, polished off my salad, cooked my own platter of steak cutlets, and somehow still made room for chocolate covered marshmallows, fruit, and brownies. I loved the privacy of the restaurant, which allowed us to both stuff our faces and catch up with each other with little interruption. By the end of the meal, we were ready for some dancing.
Off to Blackhawk Country Club, where the rest of the family was already hitting up the cash bar and waiting for the dance floor to open. The DJ wasted no time cycling through the first, father-daughter, and mother-son dances before playing Top 40 for the rest of the night. I was a little disappointed that there weren't any slow songs, if not for a chance to slow dance, then at least for an easy way to take a break.
Saturday night didn't stop at the reception--Quinn convinced Mom and Dad to drop him off downtown by his friends when we left...and then to just come out to see everyone (Bailey's friends were still around) before heading back to the hotel. If you've never brought your parents to a late night bar/dance club, I highly recommend it.
The next morning/afternoon, Jesus and I rode back to Chicago in style: with Mom and Dad. They drove us all the way, and Dad even built me a platform bed when we got here! (I've been thinking about buying/building a platform bed for a while. A few weeks after talking about it to my parents, Dad found a way to make it a reality. I would say he's fishing for Father's Day compliments, but that's just how he operates.)

Wedding #2 of 2014 is only a month away...I'm excited to do it all again! (This time in Eau Claire...EAUcation? We'll work on it.)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

MADcation: Friday

Even though it only lasted three days and even though we were only about three hours from Chicago, Jesus and I had a great time in Madison. We took Van Galder from O'Hare and arrived near Memorial Union in the late afternoon, giving us plenty of time to lay out on the Terrace, grab some Ian's (as per Madison tradition), and snap some campus pics before meeting up with Quinn.
Decisions, decisions...
Quinn took us to Planet Fitness for a quick Friday night gym session (I sat on the recumbent bike and "rode" five miles while watching Say Yes To the Dress/MasterChef) then we made a quick stop at Target so Jesus could re-purchase a shirt for the wedding because he forgot to pack the one we bought in Chicago. He also forgot his tie, but don't worry, he remembered his protein supplements!
The mall had a Quizno's. Jesus wished there was a Spencer's nearby he could transfer to.
We grabbed a quick dinner at the mall and went back to Quinn's to relax a bit before heading out to see some of Bailey's friends, who are mysteriously always in Madison when I'm in Madison. Hmmmm. After a few rounds of beer pong and a brisk walk downtown, we called it a night so we could get some sleep for the next day: Saturday, wedding day, family date day!

(to be continued)

Monday, June 9, 2014

I Don't Care About Your Band...

I Don't Care About Your Band: Lessons Learned from Indie Rockers, Trust Funders, Pornographers, Felons, Faux-Sensitive Hipsters, and Other Guys I've DatedI Don't Care About Your Band: Lessons Learned from Indie Rockers, Trust Funders, Pornographers, Felons, Faux-Sensitive Hipsters, and Other Guys I've Dated by Julie Klausner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I wish I liked this book more than I do, but the overall story isn't strong. While some parts are hilarious and I could relate easily with others, I was disappointed in Klausner's taste in men. I know it's a memoir about failed relationships, but sometime it gets a little too pathetic rather than funny. I can't necessarily recommend this to people, other than to say it's a fast read and has several interesting vignettes. Maybe if I was in the midst of dating struggles I would appreciate this more--I've heard Klausner's stand up/sketches are great, so I won't write her off just yet!

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Friday, June 6, 2014


Jesus and I are on our way to Madison today. We'll get the chance to settle in and hang out with Quinn tonight before my cousin's wedding tomorrow, when we get to see (practically) the whole fam-bamily! Because about 70% of my readership (hi Grandma!) will also be there, see you soon/drive safe!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Lover's Twitter Account

Remember when I read The Lover's Dictionary last November? I just found out about the author's twitter account, which continues in the vein of the novel. These tweets aren't excerpts, but additions, so it's like getting to read even more of a story I truly enjoyed. Like the book, they're alphabetical and Levithan is only on "impeach" as of ten hours ago. Looks like I'll be taking the night to catch up.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Not for Nothing

Sunday night I put myself in a panic. I remembered something I had to do at work on Monday (another story both too unimportant and convoluted to explain here) and put myself though all the different scenarios that could transpire the next day. I made plans, revised plans, and adjusted plans while factoring in the phase of the moon, my diet, traffic patterns, and the day's pollen count. It's really all I could do to resolve the situation on a Sunday night.

Or was it? After my conscious worrying, which kept me busy throughout the evening, my subconscious took over. Any scenario I couldn't imagine while awake played out in my dreams--including one that ended in a massive fight between my boyfriend and me. I woke up Monday morning fully prepared for whatever would happen. It might have been nice to live out my weekend in blissful unawareness, but I did all I could to avoid surprises. Except one.

When I got to work, I found out that my boss had already taken care of the situation. Surprise! A different list of challenges greeted me. I welcomed those regular Monday duties and scrapped all my anxious plans. My worrying saved the day!

That's right: it saved my day. Some might say I worried for nothing, but I say my worrying itself helped me out by fending off bad vibes and catastrophes. I don't know how many accidents I've prevented my boyfriend from getting in just by holding my breath while in the car with him. We all know it's the collective worries of the worriers that keep planes in the skies. Sporting events, talent competitions, and even grocery runs: when my mind frets, my teams win, things turn out okay, and my favorite brand of cheese stays in stock. Right?


Monday, June 2, 2014

Not a Holiday

ATTENTION: This was not a holiday weekend. Your confusion is understandable, but I assure you no holidays were celebrated in the past 48 hours. Not here, at least. Yes, yes, I know the weather was glorious and you are now just a bit tanner than you were on Friday. And I can see how you might think libations = occasions, which they do, but sometimes it's just someone's birthday, not a matter of national observation.

And what of the leisure walks you took, both alone and with friends? While Holstein Park was filled with sunbathing 20-somethings and Logan Square teemed with bikes, strollers, dogs, and market shoppers, neither signified a holiday in progress; those gatherings were merely a weekend doing its thing.

The return to Slippery Slope, the visit to a friend's art show, finishing that book, trying out a new recipe...these activities weren't special because of any holiday they commemorated. They stood--stand--on their own as markers of a full and adventurous life.

It was May and now it's June--that's not a holiday either. That's the flipping of the calendar, the turning of the earth, and time stubbornly marching on.

This was only a weekend, only the beginning of the summer, and only a small sample of what the next few months have in store.

And if you need any more convincing: the Blackhawks lost Game 7 last night. Definitely not a holiday.