Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Are you dressing up as anything? I don't have a costume picked out yet. Last year I ran a Halloween 10K as a hot dog (nice buns!).

Maybe I'll wear that to Chipotle to get a $2 burrito. If you show up to Chipotle after 6pm on Halloween dressed up as processed food you can get a burrito for $2. Up to $1,000,000 of the proceeds from the promotion will be donated to Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.

Pin It

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Vacationing in Chicago

In keeping with my mini-vacation week, I thought I would share a few things to do around Chicago. This is no way going to be an all-encompassing list of things to do. Simply a few suggestions based on things we did with friends a few weekends ago.

Go out to brunch. Restaurants all over Chicago serve brunch and it's pretty hard to mess up breakfast. Everyone has their favorite spot and our go-to place is Ann Sather. The cinnamon rolls are a good enough reason to go. All egg entrees come with two sides and you should always pick the cinnamon rolls (yes, plural!) as one of your sides. Everything is already reasonably priced, but feel free to split your order. Your waistline and wallet will thank you.

Have a drink at the Signature Lounge. Why pay $15 dollars for a ticket to the observation deck on the 94th floor of the Hancock Building when you can have drinks on the 96th? Go at night when the city is all lit up. Keep in mind that there is a one item minimum (drink, dessert, appetizer, etc.) and there may be a line to get a table. But the views (of the city and the people) is definitely worth it! And don't forget to check out the city from the women's restroom.

See an improv show. From The Second City to the iO Theater, there are all sorts of theaters around the city to enjoy a few laughs. Two actors from The Second City were recently called up to Saturday Night Live. Though you should get your tickets early, especially if there are more than two of you going. We tried to get tickets for two different shows about 10 minutes before show time and they had already sold out.

Go to the Lincoln Park Zoo. It's free! And if you plan your trip right, you could go to the Green City Market on Saturday morning and then hit up the zoo later in the day. My favorite animals are the penguins, but if you're lucky, they might be feeding the bears.

Eat at your favorite BYOB restaurant. As I said before, there are all sorts of restaurants that let you bring your own drinks.

And if you're planning your trip to Chicago in advance, sign up Chicago Groupons. They've posted offers for rental cars, architectural boat tours, museum passes, restaurants, and hotels.

What else would you recommend? Do you have favorite places to eat or take visitors?
Pin It

Friday, October 29, 2010

Home Sweet Home


Hi, everyone! I'm back home from Galena, which was gorgeous. We basically spent the trip relaxing, eating, and repeating :) We stayed at Hawk Valley Retreat and Cottages, which is tucked between the rolling hills and farms in northwestern Illinois. We could hear cows mooing during all hours of the day. And I don't think I've ever seen as many stars at night. Jane and Fritz were wonderful hosts and Jane made the best baked french toast ever! She was even nice enough to give me the recipe, so maybe I'll post it when I get a chance to make it at home.

Some of the highlights of the trip include:

Visiting Galena Cellars Vineyard and Winery. The wines were tasty (we walked out with 5 bottles) and the tour was entertaining. There was a group of Eastern Orthodox priests with their friends and family on our tour. Everything was translated from English to Russian and one lady looked like the mom from "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." Galena Cellars also has a tasting room in downtown Galena if you can't make it to the vineyard for a tour.

Eating at One Eleven Main in downtown Galena. Their menu features local flavors and products. When possible, their dishes include locally-sourced ingredients and specialty items recommended by their partners. I enjoyed the Pecan-Encrusted Salmon with a Galena Brewery Fevre River Ale while John had the Almond-Encrusted Walleye. BHG has a similar maple pecan salmon recipe in their November 2010 issue, so that might also pop up here in the future.

Biking along the Galena River. Most of the leaves have fallen from the trees, but there were still a few brightly colored leaves left hanging around. The river eventually dumps into the Mississippi River, but the trail is blocked before that point. We didn't mind because we had a chance to chat with some cows along the way.

Galena itself is an historic downtown along the Galena River. There are all sorts of little shops and restaurants. Some of the stores have "Men's Time Out" rooms with free beer and ESPN playing for the guys while the women shop. In the popcorn shop I found Snap-o-Lantern Ice Cream! The perfect combination of pumpkin ice cream and ginger snap cookies. I first had this when I was in Phillips, WI for work three years ago. It obviously made a good impression if I'm still thinking about it years later.

Now it's time to get back to reality...bummer.

Have you taken any mini-vacations lately? Any recommendations for a long weekend trip?
Pin It

Monday, October 25, 2010

Gone Relaxing

Hi friends, just wanted to let you know that I'm out enjoying the fresh fall air in Galena, IL. Here's my view from the porch of our bed and breakfast.

Today we plan on bike riding along the Mississippi River and tomorrow we'll visit a winery :)

Have a great week and see you in a few days.
Pin It

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Jambalaya, Oh My-A!

It's been a while since I posted a recipe, so I thought I'd share last night's dinner with you. While baking is very specific and detail oriented, cooking is more like jazz music. You have a general idea of how things should go, but there's plenty of room for interpretation and improvisation.

That was definitely the case with this jambalaya. John did the grocery shopping and had picked up a few random things based on a few different recipes. I've had jambalaya before, but never made it from scratch. So when I was cooking, I sort of made things up as I went along. This recipe is a loose interpretation of recipes found in "The Joy of Cooking" and our Crock-Pot's cookbook. It should make about 6 servings.

-1 cup rice (uncooked)
-1 package of sausage (6 links, about 1.5 pounds). I used Mild Italian, but you can also use smoked sausage, andouille, or chorizo.
-1 medium onion
-2 celery stalks
-crushed red pepper flakes
-3 or 4 cloves of garlic
-28 oz. can of whole, crushed, or chopped tomatoes
-water (maybe 2 cups, depends on how liquid-y you want your jambalaya)
-1/2 T Better than Bullion (a chicken base used to make chicken broth, you can also substitute 2 cups of chicken broth)
-dried thyme
-dried parsley
-fresh ground pepper
-1/2 lb shrimp

1. Cook the rice according to the box's directions. My rice always ends up undercooked, so I added it to the rest of the pot near the end. If you know how to cook rice, you can always pour the jambalaya over the rice to serve.

2. Start cooking the sausage in a dutch oven over medium heat with a few glugs of olive oil.

3. While the sausage is cooking, slice the onion and add it to the pot. Stir occassionally so things don't stick or burn.

4. Chop up the celery. And yes, add that too. Let the onion and celery cook down a little bit so they're not super crunchy. But don't cook them all the way. You want some different textures when you take a bite.

5. Mince your garlic and drop that in as well. Don't forget to stir!
6. At this point, add a few shakes of red pepper flakes into the pot. Feel free to add more or less based on your preferences.

This is still a little early. You can tell that the onions are just starting to color.
7. Add the tomatoes and liquid from the can to the pot. You might have to crank up the burner a little more to keep things hot and cooking.

8. Add the 2 cups of water and 1/2 tablespoon of Better than Bullion. You can also add 2 cups of chicken stock in place of the water and bullion.

9. Shake some dried parsley and thyme into the pot. Grind black pepper into the pot too.

10. Don't worry if things look a little soupy. Just let everything simmer for a bit. Your flavors will concentrate and some of the liquid will cook off. At this point, you could also add your undercooked rice since that will also soak up some of the excess liquid.

11. Finally, add the shrimp to the pot. They'll only take a few minutes to cook so once they're pink, your jambalaya is ready to enjoy!

-Chicken is also welcome to the jambalaya party, we just didn't have any in the fridge. If you do add it, I would probably start cooking it near the beginning with the sausage.
-Things will cook a lot faster if they're near room temperature when you start cooking. The sausage took much longer than expected because they were just out of the fridge when I started the jambalaya.

Pin It

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I Heart Jess LC

Hi friends! How's your Tuesday treating you so far? 

So last night I spent some time sprucing up the blog. And by that I mean I slaved over some html coding to add a shiny new badge. (Let's just say I'm not the most technically savvy person out there.) Anyways, check out my lovely little badge. It's for my good friend Jess's fab jewelry line Jess LC! I am one of the newly minted Jess LC Ambassadors!

If you've been paying any attention, I talk about Jess a fair amount on the blog. She's my running buddy, helped me get into blogging, and is an overall great lady. And her blog Makeunder My Life is life-changing. So why did I become an Ambassador? Basically, I want to make my love of Jess LC "official." You know what I'm talking about. It's like when friendships and relationships aren't "official" until they're posted on Facebook. 

Anyways, back to the jewelry. It goes with everything. It's simple and classy, but with a twist. I just bought the Diversey Long Solid Enamel Paisley Necklace in white to wear at a wedding and have also worn it to work and out on the weekend. Here she is in berry:

Jess LC
 There isn't a good close-up picture from the wedding, so here it is in white from the Diversey lookbook:

And the jewelry is all reasonably priced. For example the new Diversey line is priced between $25 and $98.

Want to be an Ambassador too? More info can be found here. And as an added perk, each Ambassador gets a 15% reusable Ambassador discount!

Take a look around at the Jess LC and let me know which piece is your favorite.

Pin It

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pink Bag Flies Free!

Hi, everyone! How was your weekend? After a crazy week at work, I made it a point to enjoy every minute of the weekend. We had some friends from St. Louis in town and had a blast acting like tourists and locals at the same time. I'll share some of our budget-friendly adventures in the next post, but first I need to share something really exciting we saw on Saturday night!

I'm in a Southwest Airlines national TV commercial!!! A few weeks ago I was walking through Daley Plaza on my way to the L from work and accidentally walked through the middle of them filming the commercial. There were all sorts of people wearing Southwest Airlines uniforms while dancing and singing about bags flying free. (By the way, those are actual Southwest employees) I thought it was pretty cool, and they didn't say anything to me, but I forgot about it until Saturday night. While watching the hockey game I saw myself walk across the screen during the commercial! Watch for me at 0:06 with my pink bag and white jacket. I'll be walking from the right side of the screen to the left while smiling.

And why am I smiling? Because I love Southwest Airlines! (By the way, Southwest didn't pay me to write this and I had no idea I was going to be on national television.) Their rates are super-low and have no baggage fees, a friendly staff, a great rewards program, free snacks and drinks, an entertaining in-flight magazine, and on and on! I always fly Southwest, unless we're going somewhere international. When we went to Panama City Beach this past June, we waited until the airport opened and Southwest began flying there.

Southwest Airlines definitely gets the Fiscally Chic seal of approval. You can't beat their promotions for $49/one-way flights. Why would I want to buy my bags their own plane tickets??? And do the other airlines give you tickets for free alcoholic drinks (for the 21+ crowd) when you get a free flight? I don't think so. 

Seriously, their Rapid Rewards program is awesome! 16 flights (8 round trips) and you get a free flight! I feel like I have to fly around the world 80 times with other airlines to get anything. Plus, you can get additional credits by booking rental cars and hotels through the Southwest website. And using your free flight is also pretty easy.

I even like their way of boarding the plane. So what if I sit at the computer waiting to check in 24 hours in advance to be in the A line? It makes them unique. Sure, you can pay more to guarantee A-list status, a free alcoholic drink, and extra credits, but I'll save my money to put towards other flights.

Finally, Southwest is actually growing and is profitable in this economy! They just purchased AirTran, which means they (and their customers) will be able to fly into more airports. And...they'll be able to fly to Mexico and the Caribbean in the future! Ole!

How about you? Want to share the Southwest "LUV"?
Pin It

Thursday, October 14, 2010

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas (Ale)!

leHi, everyone! Sorry for the radio silence. Things have been super busy this week. To hold you over, I thought I would share some exciting news. At least to anyone that lives in the greater Cleveland area.

Today is officially "12 Days" until Christmas Ale is released on tap in the Great Lakes Brewing Company Brewpub! If you live in the area, Christmas Ale will start pouring on October 25 at 4 PM!

Christmas Ale

For those of us not lucky enough to be there in person, Christmas Ale will begin appearing in the market in early November.

If you do go, have one for me :)

Pin It

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I'm a Marathoner!

I did it! I finished the marathon! It was definitely a rough 26.2 miles thanks to the unseasonably warm October weather. As in temperatures in the 70's and 80's. I finished in 4:45:42, which is 19,341 out of 36,159 finishers (38,131 runners started the race.) And yes, I'll probably do another one. I love a good challenge and want to improve my time. Plus, I enjoyed running through the different neighborhoods with 1+ million people cheering us on.

I ran with a friend until I hit the wall around mile 18. Between miles 18.6 and 21.7 my pace slowed from 10:31/mile to 12:22/mile. Ouch. You can tell that I'm hurting and thinking to myself, "Eff, this sounded like such a good idea six months ago."

But I couldn't let down my cheering squad. My family took the L around the city to cheer while John rode his bike around the race course. Here's a picture of everyone in their matching shirts. They even hoisted up an extra shirt so I wouldn't have problems finding them.

After the race we went to Eleven City Diner for an awesome brunch. They serve breakfast all day as well as some killer corned beef sandwiches. I had the Eleven City French Toast and chicken apple gouda sausage and enjoyed every single bite. I would definitely recommend stopping by there for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Once again, I'd like to send a big thank you to everyone that cheered (including the crossdressers in Boystown) and to all of the volunteers along the race course. There's no way I could have finished without your enthusiasm, crazy signs (i.e. "Run like you stole something"), water, Gatorade, and garden hoses. For now, I'm taking a little time to recover, but will run an unofficial half marathon with Jess in November. Then we'll see about my next full or half marathon :)

Pin It

Friday, October 8, 2010

Chicago Marathon Eve Eve

OK kids, Sunday is the big day. The day I've been preparing for and training for since May. Actually, I've been mentally preparing for this since early March. And it was approximately one year ago that we started our move to Chicago and saw the marathon run through our neighborhood. Yes, the Chicago Marathon is here! I'm about to embark on my 26.2 mile tour of Chicago with 45,000 other people. It's a flat course, but I'm sure there will be many highs and lows during my 4+ hour run.

Before I run, I'd like to thank a few people that have helped me on my journey of becoming a marathon runner.

First up is my incredible husband, John. Throughout my months of training he encouraged me, followed me on my long training runs on bike, made me do PT for my knees, and reminded me to eat protein after my runs. While I was out on runs he made many of my lunches to take to work and many of our dinners. He put up with me when I complained about aches and pains and hung out with me on the weekends when I just wanted to sit home and watch movies.

This picture was from our first half marathon in St. Louis. We trained for and ran that race together and I wish he was able to run this first marathon with me. He was supposed to be running a marathon last January, but injured his knee in the process. He's finally feeling better and has started to run again. Maybe I'll be able to train with him during his marathon debut, whenever that is.

Hal Higdon
Next up is my pseudo-coach Hal Higdon. Hal doesn't know it yet, but we're on a first name basis. He has a great website with every running tip in the book, as well as a plethora of training programs. From the 5K all the way up to ultra marathons. I followed his Novice 1 marathon training program and it's definitely worked out for me. Running 4 times a week is perfect. He also has advice and encouragement for each week of training. I trusted his program and I'm confident the training will serve me well on Sunday.

Jess is my (mostly) morning running buddy. She's my first friend in Chicago and we bonded over running. I began following her blog before moving to Chicago and met her in person at one of her trunk shows at Macy's. At first we considered getting together over coffee or wine, but I finally suggested going running together. She's run a few marathons, so I thought she would be game. Now we meet up for morning, afternoon, and/or weekend runs and discuss life and our dreams. She's not running the marathon this year, but will be volunteering at the water station at mile 10.5.

K is my running friend from work. My cube is next to hers and I was a little awestruck when I started my new job. Her cube walls are covered in marathon race courses. K was the one that really encouraged me to sign up for the marathon, knowing that I was going to have four half marathons under my belt by the time the marathon rolled around. She's running Chicago again this year and she just finished Boston in this picture, which is huge in the running world! We've only run together once, but we talk about training and running all the time at work. And let's not forget our mutual love of cupcakes. It's a good thing we run so much.

And last, but not least, is my family. Thoughout my childhood, college, and even now, they cheered at my races, swim meets, and soccer games. This is a picture of all of us after the St. Louis half marathon this spring. Somtimes I think they're even more excited for the marathon than me. They're coming to Chicago to cheer for me and had matching shirts made for the race. I'll be sure to post a picture after the race :)

Well, that's about it. I'm going to the expo this afternoon to pick up my race packet (yay!) and I'll be sure to post all about the race once it's over. Good luck to all of the other runners! It's going to be a great race!
Pin It

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Dressing your Curtains

Have you checked out the new online shelter mag Rue yet? The gals over there are super creative and have some great features in addition to the beautiful home tours: color palates based on home tours, ways to make those home tours your own, and DIY projects. Plus, there are shopping guides, entertainment ideas, downloadable templates, and recipes. Yay!

Today I'm going to share with you an easy way to add a little glamour to your home, as seen in the pages of Rue. They get their inspiration from the classic pairing of a little black dress and layered gold necklaces.


In just an afternoon, you can make this gorgeous curtain tie. Just pick up some necklaces and broaches from a flea market, estate sale, Target, Forever21, or J.Crew on sale. Or if you're just looking to add a little sparkle for a single event, why not use necklaces you already have? Grab a wire cutter and a pair of pliers, and experiment with layering. If you're using necklaces you'd like to wear again, just hook them on to one another.

You could also use jewelry as napkin rings. Simply wrap necklaces or bracelets around the napkin at each place setting. If you're feeling very generous, the jewelry can be used as party favors. Think about it for your next girls night, birthday party, or bachelorette party. And then invite me.

Here are a few pretty options for your viewing pleasure:

Crystal lariat necklace
J.Crew (sale - $29.99)

Forever 21 (final sale - $6.80)
Forever 21 (final sale - $12.80)
Where do you find home inspiration?
Pin It

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Cleaning your Bling

This post is dedicated to my recently married and engaged friends. Don't worry single friends, I love you too. We'll have a girls night out soon. Cupcakes and wine. I promise.

Anyways, those of you with the bling bling that are still following are probably wondering, "How do I keep my ring looking like new without taking it to the jeweler every two days?" And since you're either saving up for the big day or are in the process of paying it off, you might be wondering how to take care of the sparkles for less. Super sonic ring cleaner? Nope. Top secret formula jewelry cleaner? Don't worry about it. All you need are a few household objects to give your ring a little TLC.

I present to soap! A baby toothbrush! And a shot glass! (A drinking glass will also work.) Let me tell you ladies, this stuff works wonders.

So, what do you do with all of this? Pour a little dish soap in the glass. Fill the glass with hot water so that it gets all sudsy. Drop your ring in and let it soak for about 10 minutes. Or from one commercial break to the next.

Then, over a sink that has been plugged (verrry important!), take your ring out of the water and brush it with the toothbrush. Get the toothbrush sudsy as well. And be sure to use a baby toothbrush since the bristles are much softer. Don't forget to get in all of the nooks and crannies. Dirt and gunk love to hang out in there. Afterwards, rinse your ring and dry it off. And then try not to stare :)


Do you have any secret tips for taking care of your jewelry?

Pin It

Saturday, October 2, 2010


Hi! How was your week? Mine was a little crazy at work, so I only managed to get two posts up instead of three. Three a week is my goal, but two might be a little more realistic at times. So that's why you get a weekend post. Plus, I have an exciting update that couldn't wait until Monday. Without further ado, this post was brought to you by the letter "C" which stands for the caffeine found in my tasty cup of Streudal Cake coffee from the Coffee and Tea Exchange. It's like a bakery poured itself into my coffee cup and I loooove it :) I keep telling John that it's my crack coffee. I'm addicted.

OK, so back to the post at hand.....One of the cool things about Chicago is the plethora of BYOB restaurants. I never saw those in St. Louis or Cleveland. They're mainly sushi, Thai, or some other type of Asian restaurant, which is alright by me. Every so often I need to fulfill my craving for pad thai or rainbow rolls.

Usually you can bring whatever you want, but some places only let you bring wine. I haven't been to Chilam Balam yet (a BYOB Mexican/tapas restaurant), but apparently they'll make sangria using a bottle of wine you bring. And beware that certain places charge a corkage fee, but that's still a steal since you're bringing your own drinks. Some of the places we've enjoyed include Joy's and Duck Walk for Thai and Lips ($1 corkage fee per person), Red Bambuu, and Ukai for sushi.

If you use a $10 off coupon, like we did last night at Ukai, or a gift certificate, like we used for our anniversary dinner at Lips, you can have a pretty stellar night out for a fraction of the cost. We also used a Groupon for Red Bambuu.

Ukai (source)
What would I recommend bringing? Your very own homebrew, of course! (Or a cheap bottle of wine from Trader Joe's or Binny's) Recently I told you that we bottled the beer that we lovingly brewed six weeks ago. After two weeks of bottle conditioning/fermentation we were able to enjoy it....yay!!! Not to brag or anything, but I think it's pretty awesome. We made an IPA, generally a pretty hoppy beer. This one still has the hops, but it's also slightly darker, and tastes a bit fruity. Like how a wheat beer can be a little fruity. John doesn't agree with my fruity analysis, but that's besides the point.

I present to you Bear Shark Brewing Company's Hammer Head IPA! John's buddy designed the labels, and yes there's a spelling error. He's in the process of fixing it, but I was too excited to show you to wait until we got the new ones. And the name is courtesy of a joke John had with some friends in college. We still haven't purchased the kit to start brewing at home, but that will happen soon enough.

Thanks for stopping by this week. How was your week? Super crazy that you couldn't wait to enjoy the weekend? We're going to see "Rock of Ages" tonight and I'm really excited. It's a musical set to 80's music. Plus, it's the final weekend of tapering before the Chicago marathon. Only 8 miles!
Pin It
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...