Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Dog Days

Quick: do you know what day it is? How about the date? No phone/calendar checking!

I fail that test around this time every year, and this year is no different. Is it Tuesday or Wednesday? I know it's near the end of July, but after about the 18th I'm lost...these last 12ish days are a blur of humidity, bad hair, and wondering if it's my birthday yet. Apologies to Jesus, whose birthday falls on July 31st...because the other thing about me + July is I forget that it has 31 days.

When I was a kid I had the no school = no idea what day it is excuse, but even as an adult I'm realizing that the end of July is just a hard time to keep track of in general. We're deep into summer, but we also have a solid month to go (closer to two now that I'm out of school--September tends to be more summery than autumny). After the Fourth, there are no national holidays to help us out until Labor Day. It's just day after day of smoggy, sticky summer. Or, you know, a mid-summer polar vortex.

Whatever. Either way, forgive me if I forget the details of a wedding/birthday/anniversary in the next few weeks. My brain is taking it's two weeks.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Leftovers: TV Adaptation Review

A year ago, I read a strange/interesting book called The Leftovers. Earlier this month, I started watching HBO's television adaptation of the book. My initial review: I'm impressed and hooked.

Is it different? Yes, of course. I love when movie/TV versions of books stray from the original--a different medium deserves a different telling. Besides, I don't have the best memory, so no matter what the TV show does, most of it is new (again) to me. I liked watching and remembering things just before or as they happened. I'm glad I can visualize the town and people of Mapleton, the inner workings of the Guilty Remnant (especially Lorrie and Meg, who we see a lot more of), and Tom's journey out west.

Other than all the little details, this show explores large, dark themes. What/who is good? Where do we go when we die--or disappear? The characters battle with these questions while I as the viewer stay perched on the edge of my seat, hoping they find the answers.

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
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


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.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sunday Night Survey: Wedding Weekend Edition

I'm home from a weekend of long travel and wedding fun. My bags are unpacked, but I won't be doing laundry just yet. I have emails to catch up on, books to revisit, and a second dinner to snack on. Let's take stock of what else is going on around here:

Cooking: nada...grabbed dinner from Chipotle
Drinking: root beer & LOTS of water
Reading: articles on the internet/the last book in a series
Wanting: more time with my family
Looking: at pictures from the weekend
Wishing: I was better at taking more pictures

Planning: my next trip home
Enjoying: the cool breeze coming in through my window
Liking: the fact that I made my bed before leaving town on Friday
Wondering: if I forgot anything at my parents' house
Loving: all the activities of the summer
Hoping: I fall asleep fast tonight
Needing: to shower
Smelling: like I've been traveling since early this afternoon
Wearing: leggings & a shirt dress from Target
Noticing: how swollen my ankles are 
Thinking: I don't want to go to work tomorrow

Knowing: I've got to go back sometime
Bookmarking: articles on Medium
Feeling: tired/full/content

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Henry Vilas Zoo

Some pictures from our zoo adventure yesterday:
Yep, it's that way.
Hey there, buddy.
I think he looks like Quinn.
A perfect way to end the day: free Slurpee from 7-11.

Friday, July 11, 2014


I'm on vacation! That means I'll be Out Of The Office until Sunday night.

If you're reading this between 6 and 9 a.m. Friday morning, I'm napping on a Megabus somewhere between Chicago and Madison.

If you're reading this after 9 a.m., I'm napping at a park in Madison. Or on a highway heading even further north.

Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Best Part About Traveling

I'm lucky that travel is such an ingrained aspect of my life. My parents made sure us kids were well-versed in how to go from Point A to Point B safely and happily, whether Point B was across the room or across the country. Summers meant family vacation, and our travels ran the gamut of locales and transportation. We learned a lot on vacation--about where we were, who we were, and why traveling is important. Still, no matter the destination, a family vacation always included one integral part: the pre-travel giddiness of planning.

Of course, Mom and Dad did most of that grunt work (ordering travel guides, reserving hotels, buying tickets, studying atlases), but recently I've gotten to travel as an adult (read: solo or with my bf) and soak in the entire process for myself. Last year I traveled both out of the country/by myself (to Montevideo) and within the States/with my boyfriend (to Colorado). I relished all the list-making, supply-shopping, and map-reading and felt like the days before each trip were just as important to the overall journey as the actual travel-and-vacation part. It's not just me, either--studies show that "vacation anticipation" is really where the magic happens.
I think Quinn was anticipating a time when picture-taking would end.
Vacations make us happy, but mostly because our own daydreams and pre-travel projections lift our spirits. That means shorter (though more frequent) trips do more good, happiness-wise, than one big long trip. Lucky for me, everyone and their cousin is getting married this summer, so I have lots of weekend trips and lots of mood-boosting anticipation coming my way.
Case in point: I leave town tomorrow just for the weekend, but I've already stretched that short trip out to a full week of shopping, packing, trying on outfits, scheduling, researching, and organizing. I've had a great week at work not just because things are good there, but also because I'm counting down until tonight at 7, when I'm officially on vacation.
Formerly the tallest building in South America (and the backside of a horse). No shame in my picture game.
8.5 more hours! Then it's more packing and sweet dreams of travel.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Struggle Itself

A funny thing happened on my way to find a new job...
...I started having a lot of fun at my current one.
The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. -Camus
When I first made the decision to start looking for other employment, I panicked. House managing/nannying can be a Sisyphean task: no matter how many loads of laundry I wash or dinners I prepare, the same messes and jobs await me each day. When I added a job search to that, I got bogged down in the what-ifs and how-tos and whens and worried myself sick trying to figure out this transition, while at the same time craving the change more and more.

Then I took one step. And another. I researched online postings, updated my resume, drafted cover letters, sent emails, and practiced interview questions. Slowly, I released the iron grip I held on my work life. I took a step back to view the mountain as a whole and let my job be what it is: an awesome learning-through-doing experience, filled with plenty of challenges, but also appealing to many of my strengths. (More laundry? Super! I am a laundry BOSS.)

I've dealt with this up-and-down struggle before. Sometimes work makes me lose sleep and eat my feelings. Sometimes I sing silly songs during my commute. Sometimes I live in a work fog; sometimes I find a comfortable work-life balance. These days I'm pushing up the mountain and not falling (as far) down. Or at least when I do, I smile about it.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sunday Morning Shortlist Vol 1

A list of carefully curated links that piqued my interest recently. Happy Sunday!

Some Independence Day photos from this weekend!

Chicago is the sixth most stressed city in the US, according to CNN Money. Because of this, mostly.

"Don't overthink it; your first instinct is usually correct." --Writing motivation from one of my role models, Elizabeth Gilbert.

I love these tables! If only I had $5,000 to spare.

Words that sound dirty, but aren't. This list reminds me of the ones my coworkers and I would make back when I worked at my college's writing center.

How important are our passwords? A beautiful story and a good idea!

Sitcom Dads are important.

Cartoon Moms are important.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Circle

The CircleThe Circle by Dave Eggers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book over a weekend. It moves along rapidly, pulling you in just like Mae, our protagonist, is pulled in to her new life working at the Circle, a California-based tech company that's pretty familiar despite being fictive. After I finished, I felt a little creeped out, but also a little disappointed. This isn't Eggers's best (or at least not my favorite of his), and I think he could have done a lot more with his thinly veiled morality tale. Still, The Circle provides a telling glance at what the future (and some of the present) could look like if technology continues to advance at the rate and in the direction it is.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Pulled Pork Sandwiches

I needed something for a potluck bridal shower this weekend, and with summer + heat + general weekend laziness, I wanted it to be easy and fun. Then I found this recipe for pulled pork sandwiches. Three ingredients? Sold!

Here's how it went down:

9:30 am:
I took my six pound pork shoulder out of the fridge, rinsed it under cool water, and chopped it in half.
I set up our crock pot and poured a little root beer in, just enough to cover the bottom.
I placed my two hunks of pork in the crock pot and poured more root beer over them, so they were just over half covered.
I turned the crock pot on low and walked away.
pork shoulder = lots of marbling
Periodically throughout the day:
I spooned root beer over the tops of the pork hunks and rotated them so they cooked evenly.
doing their thing while I do lots of other things
6:00 pm-ish:
I started pulling the pork, first by cutting up my two halves into even smaller pieces, then by using two forks to literally pull the meat (now fully cooked) apart.
I kept the good meat in a bowl separate from the fattier pieces until I had most of the pork out of the crock pot, then I poured out the root beer and put the pulled pork back in.
I covered the pulled pork with barbecue sauce (Sweet Baby Ray's...I know it's mostly corn syrup, but it's a crowd-pleaser nonetheless).
I stirred the sauce/pork around until everything was coated and set the crock pot on high to get it nice and bubbly.
it's pulling time!
8:00 pm-ish:
I served my pulled pork on pretzel buns with pickles and cheese.
I ate the heck out of a pulled pork sandwich.

[No pictures of the finished product, I'm afraid. Stomachs beat out smartphones.]

Any questions? Here's a recap: pork. root beer. crock pot. pull. bbq. chow.