Wednesday, December 22, 2010


yesterday was wonderful because of all the delicious food i consumed! my mom and i met my cousin and aunt at macy's to have lunch at the walnut room. i've never done it and my mom used to go when she was little with her mom so we decided to start our own tradition. my mom and i got there around 11 a.m. and waited in line to get the pager. about 20 minutes just to get the pager and then we were told there was a 2 hour wait. so we did some shopping and then met up with my aunt and cousin. we finally got seated and had a great view of the tree. our waitress was really funny and kept us laughing the whole time. my mom and i both ordered the asiago crusted chicken breast with sour cream and chive mashed potatoes and veggies. it was so yummie! i had very low expectations for the food but i really loved it. my mom and i cleaned our plates and then we split a frango cheesecake. also delicious!!! we were so stuffed afterwards! later on we went to see my cousin's new condo which is just a few blocks away from me. it's beautiful and i'm so happy for her! then i had some downtime at home before my dinner date with rob. he came home and we exchanged christmas gifts before dinner. i gave him a sturdy portfolio to keep all of his show posters and a promise to scrapbook his israel trip for him. he gave me a gorgeous necklace from dogeared. i love it. and the other part of my gift was dinner at a snazzy restaurant. i gave him 5 choices and then he picked. he selected table 52 and i'm so glad he did! it was very intimate inside and total comfort food all the way. they brought out deviled eggs (i dont eat those so rob had 2!) and a goat cheese biscuit = stupidly amazing. then we ordered a side of mac & cheese to split and i got breaded catfish with a hush puppy, collard greens and cheese grits. unbelievable. the mac and cheese was truly unbelievable. it was perfect in every way. crispy on top and creamy on the inside and so flavorful! rob got a huge pork chop that was so juicy and flavorful and it came over a yummie bean stew. they brought out little sweet potato cakes with cream cheese frosting at the end. so many freebies! we were so pleased with our meal! i'm so glad we went there and i think food is the greatest gift he could ever give me. i loved it!!!!

my new year's resolution to eat at as many new restaurants as i could is coming to a close and the total is currently at 63. i will probably squeeze in a couple more before ringing in 2011 but table 52 is definitely at the top!

Friday, December 17, 2010

christmas season countdown!

i've REALLY been enjoying the holiday season this year - so unlike me! and there are a lot of really fun things on the agenda. so here is my official holiday season countdown:

1 day till high school bff fun for stef's birthday and decorating the tree with my folks
2 days until fam christmas celebration at my aunt & uncle's
3 days until i give my seniors their christmas gifts!
4 days till my mom and i do the walnut room AND rob takes me out for my surprise christmas dinner
5 days till my last day of work for 11 days!
6 first day of vacation!
7 days until christmas eve
8 days until christmas day at my aunt's
9 days until i get to see amy, luke and tom and celebrate the jensen's christmas!
10 days until rob's dad's side gets together for christmas
11 days until i take a day for myself in the city
12 days until i do the same thing :)
13 days until we get to spend more time with the luke meister in the burbs
14 days until new year's eve!
15 days until i get to hang out with my bestest that will be in from germany
16 days until high school bffs do our junk food dinner party at meg & rys!!!

A FABULOUS 16 days if you ask me!!!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

perfect weekend

even though we had HORRIBLE weather and i caught a cold - this weekend was still lovely! on friday i worked out, grabbed chicago bagel authority for dinner and then went to the Christmas at DePaul production at St. Vincent de Paul church with my friend and her roomie. they have a 200 person choir and a 50 person orchestra and the church is lit up beautifully. it's a great way to get in the holiday spirit. afterwards we went to see rob play with the sleeptalkers. it was really fun and i'm glad my friend lydia got to see him play because it's been awhile! on saturday it rained all day and my friend jamie was in town. we were supposed to do holiday things downtown but the weather ruined that. so we sat at her friends under a cozy blanket and caught up over some wine and beer. it was delightful! then we met a friend for a drink and then i met rob and my parents for the punch brothers show at lincoln hall. they're a bluegrass band we saw open for steve martin at ravinia this summer. i'm pretty obsessed with them! my dad is a big bluegrass fan and it was so fun to take them to a show. i loved it! on sunday i did coffee at lovely in wicker park with jamie and tara before jamie had to head back to michigan. we had a nice time catching up! then i went home to get everything ready for my christmas dinner party. the weather kept getting worse and worse but most of my party guests still made it over! we had quite the spread! it was so nice to see everyone and spend some time with my favorite friends during this busy season. i'm so grateful they were all willing to make the trek over. this week includes several more holiday activities - rob's holiday party at work, a holiday tour downtown and some more family christmas activities. i'm not usually super festive during christmas but im really getting into it this year!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

multi-step days

we all know i love to be busy. i'm more productive when i'm busy. i feel more satisfied and accomplished. i like working my schedule out like a little game. but, there are downfalls of being busy - exhaustion, crankiness and no me time. sometimes i pack my schedule so tight i don't leave any time for me or to laze about. since the insane laziness i had over thanksgiving, i've really picked up the pace with plans lately. everyday has multiple steps that i have to get through. granted, they're all things i want to do and i'm excited about but when there is so much of it to do, it can get wearing.

i'll show you my week in steps.

monday: step 1 - work. step 2 - gym. step 3 - volunteer at bingo.
tuesday: step 1 - work. step 2 - chiropractor. step 3 - christmas shop for 3 hours.
wednesday: step 1 - work. step 2 - work at the doggie boutique. step 3 - home for dinner. step 4 - go to wicker park for rob's show.
thursday: step 1 - work. step 2 - gym. step 3 - lydia's students art show on the south side. step 4 - beers and wings with friends on the northside.
friday: step 1 - work. step 2 - gym. step 3 - christmas show at depaul. step 4 - drinks with friends. step 5 - rob's show on the northside.
saturday: step 1 - grocery shop. step 2 - clean my apartment. step 3 - meet up with an out of town bud. step 4 - meet my parents for a bluegrass show.
sunday: step 1 - meet out of town friend. step 2 - cook and clean all day. step 3 - dinner with friends.

so it's been a lot of steps this week. all things i've really wanted to do but i'm exhausted. during the day i literally think -ok just a couple more steps to get through my day. the steps are all so fun and enjoyable but i think i need atleast one step to be RELAX or i'll die! i have 10 days off at christmas to look forward to!!!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

pet peeves.

i have a long list of pet peeves and annoyances. when i experience them, my heart starts to race, i get anxious and annoyed beyond control and it often ruins my mood. i know that many of them don't bother most people so it's ridiculous for me to expect people to know that they drive me up the wall. but sometimes i wish the rest of the world was on board with me. for example...

nail biting - stresses me to the max. when people bite their nails in front of me it makes me think they're nervous about something which then makes me nervous. i literally bat rob's hands out of his mouth when he does it.

hef chewing on his cage - my gerbil has a tendency to chew on the metal bars of his cage in one corner in particular. the noise REALLY gets under my skin. he's not smart enough to learn to stop. i've tried to train him, it doesn't work.

repetitive noises of all kinds - this could be humming, coughing, tongue clicking, foot tapping, water dripping - any of it makes me want to smack someone. alarm clocks are my biggest enemy.

chatterboxes during rush hour - when i ride the bus at 8 a.m. or after work - i'd really like to zone out quietly without having to hear your child squeal or your convo with your bff on your cell.

people that walk in the middle of the side walk at the pace of a snail and you can't pass them because they're taking up the whole damn sidewalk - enough said.

unaware bus passengers - i really don't like when someone has tries to pull the stop cord on the bus and it's already been pulled. and keeps pulling it waiting for the ding. i know this one is VERY silly but every time it happens i just think what a dummie the other person is.

i wish i wasn't such an irritable person, but i am. what are your pet peeves??

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

winter activities!

even if it's not technically winter yet according to the calendar, it's definitely winter in chicago. it snowed on friday and then got very, very, very cold. each year i forget what it feels like. how awful the wind can get, how the dampness in my hair freezes in the morning and how my fingers hurt from extreme coldness. i don't understand how i forget this each year. it's in the teens today. i don't even remember what single digits feels like. not looking forward to that! despite the wretchedness of the cold weather, there are lots of wonderful things to do in chicago in wintertime.

i started to get in the holiday spirit this weekend. on friday rob and i went to the lincoln square german christmas market. they had a big heated tent with adorable christmas carolers, gift booths and german fare. their winter fest isn't nearly as fun as their summer and fall festivals but i still loved it. afterwards we went to a nearby german bar and i loved that even more. saturday night i met some friends out for a santa pub crawl and got to admire all the drunkie's bear soaked santa beards and creative costumes. it was definitely interesting! sunday rob and i went to his mom's for hanukkah. mrs. j cooked up a huge hanukkah feast for the 3 of us to enjoy. we had challah, matzo ball soup, chicken, potato pancakes and veggies. then we had some hanukkah sugar cookies, christmas cookies and ice cream. we were stuffed! then we went home and decorated my apartment with some of the christmas decor mrs. j passed on and the new lights i bought.

this weekend there will be more fun winter time activities - a trip to the zoo to see the lights display, the depaul christmas production and a christmas dinner with some friends. on thursday my work is hosting a lights tour throughout the city and we'll get to go to macy's to see the windows and the german market in daly plaza. i'm so excited!

hope your winter is full of fun activities too!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

new found love for coupons!

i never really paid attention to coupons or special offers before but lately i've been getting some really good ones and i've been totally taking advantage of them! i used to forget to redeem them and saving money wasn't a huge priority for me. now that money is tight with christmas shopping and tuition fees, i'm definitely using them all the time!

first there is my beloved jewel coupons that end up saving me a fair amount of money on my weekly shopping trips. and ofcourse my favorite - groupon. i have been using those so much lately, the deals are too good to be true! i can't wait to use the body shop and nordstrom ones! they have really come in handy for christmas shopping.

i have gotten some really great online offers too. walgreens always has some good special going on and i've already used their special coupon codes twice for holiday shopping. right now it's 33% off photo books, prints and other gifts until saturday. you should check it out! is also completely out of control as far as extreme deals. i stocked up on great gift cards for me and friends. my fellow blogger friend ( recommended for special coupon codes for holiday shopping. they have so many coupon codes for every store imaginable!

i've also been getting tons of mailed coupons this year that have amazing offers. so far i've used coupons/special offers at victoria's secret, michael's, origins and bath and body works. i got so many quality christmas presents, plus some small stuff for me and i saved so much money.

i also try to remember all the places i get discounts because i work at and went to depaul. be sure to visit your alma mater websites to see what benefits you receive as a grad of the university.

all of these deals feel like i'm getting free money and i love getting creative with it! it's like a little game. if you're looking to save some money but still get nice gifts for the holidays, i would recommend getting on the mailing and email lists for the companies i bolded. the deals keep coming! here's hoping our mailboxes have some more great deals soon!

what's been your favorite holiday deal so far?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

sleep study and my relaxing weekend

on tuesday i had to do my sleep study that my ear, nose & throat doctor ordered because he thought i had sleep apnea. i was dreading the study because of how ridiculous it sounded. the paperwork they sent me said they would be shoving tubes in my nose, wires all over my head and whatnot. i couldn't imagine being able to actually sleep there. i arrived at the avenue hotel where they have a lab on the 15th floor. they showed me to my room to fill out a bunch of paperwork and after about an hour they came to hook me up to all the wires and told me i couldn't move for the rest of the night. they put some by my mouth, my temples, all over my head, behind my ears and on my legs. they attached the wires with a toothpaste like substance which was pretty gross. i felt like a robot hooked up that way. i watched tv and did a crossword while i was all tangled up in these wires and eventually passed out. i had a hard time falling asleep and woke up about as often as i normally do throughout the night but i slept ok! in the morning they came in to unhook me and told me i did not have sleep apnea but the test results should be able to tell me how deep i was sleeping and what caused me to wake up so much. overall, it was an interesting experience but i'm glad i got it over with!

i took the next day off to recover from the crappy night of sleep. i came home around 7 a.m. and fell back asleep for a few hours and when i woke up, i began my laziness marathon. i watched hours of instant stuff on my netflix and then i went to the aquarium downtown. it was terrible weather so it was nice and empty and i got to check out lots of animals. afterwards i hopped on the metra to head to my parents. when i got home i ran to the mall to get some christmas gifts and then came home for dinner and quality time with my parents. the next day was thanksgiving and it was really nice to have everyone together. thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because i have so much to be grateful for and i love food! the next day i slept in nice and late and laid around for hours. eventually made it to the grocery store and then i went out with my friends ryann and caitlin later on. saturday, i slept in yet again and we eventually went to bobtail for ice cream and then ran some errands. then we did absolutely nothing, even napped! and later we went to a concert at lincoln hall. today, slept in AGAIN and did brunch at julius meinl which was fabulous. we hit up some shops nearby and then came back to my place and did a nice serious cleaning together. and now we have time to finish our weekend as lazy as it started. i can't remember the last time i did this much laying around. i felt guilty some of the time but i just simply didn't have anything i had to do! most of my friends were out of town and i am broke from all the christmas shopping so laying around was all there was to do! on average i got about 9 hours of sleep every night since wednesday and i've watched about 7 movies and spent a million hours on the couch. the bags under my eyes have gone down and my eyes aren't as red as they usually are. i definitely needed this!

Friday, November 19, 2010

free time freak out.

i'm so not used to having free time. i usually have every hour planned out and allotted for a particular task or activity. i like being busy. i am more productive when i'm busy. i've always had a hard time relaxing and sitting still. i can't just sit and watch movies or read a book. i have to do it at the same time or make cards, scrapbook, clean or do emails. i'm the queen of multi tasking. when i sit on the couch i often just perch so that i'm ready to get up and do something right away. i know, i have a problem. of course there are times when i can just kick back and totally veg out but they are few and far between. now that school is over for 6 weeks and there is a lull at work until bball season picks up, i'm going to have a lot of free time. this weekend for instance - i don't have anything i HAVE to do on saturday and sunday during the day. this is completely foreign to me and it's actually a little unsettling. it makes me think i'm forgetting something. i wrote out a big to do list of things i could do but nothing is super pressing. everyone keeps telling me to just enjoy it. but i honestly don't even know how. i feel better with a plan. so this is my plan for tomorrow.

* Sleep in
* Watch my netflix in my pjs
* Finish my arts & crafts
* Drop off donations
* Nap at some point
* Go out with my girlfriends

i can take it easy and still have a plan!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Medical Mayhem

about 6 months ago i found out that i had a deviated septum. i knew something wasn't right because i always had a sinus infection and almost always had sinus pain - so i wasn't too surprised when they told me it was messed up. i wasn't a huge fan of the doc i went to at first so i tried a new one out this fall. i really like this one! i told them i wanted to avoid surgery if possible so they gave me steroids to help with the inflammation, ordered an allergy test and a sleep study to find out if there was another way to treat my issues. the steroids are definitely helping my breathing and i haven't been as tired as usual. i just had the allergy test on friday and that's where the mayhem comes in. they were asking me TONS of very specific info and i just simply didn't know the answers. i did my best and i got through the 40 minute q&a session and then they started the actual allergy test. they locked me into a chair and did 14 drops of various allergens - grass, ragweed, mold, dust mites, dogs and they even had one for gerbil! i reacted to dogs, cats and very badly to dust mites. i had to sit there and watch my arm inflame and get all itchy and not touch it. no fun. then they shot a few other things into my other arm and i had a very serious reaction to grass. so i'm allergic to dogs, cats, dust mites and grass. afterwards they chatted with me about what to do next. they suggest that i get covers for my pillows and bed and wash all of my bedding in hot water once a week, do netty pot 2x a day when i start to feel sick, use another nasal spray when im feeling sick, keep my windows closed to avoid grass issues, stop fostering cats, never get a dog. YEAH RIGHT. i mean, i don't want to feel sick anymore but there's no way i'm going to do all of that. i don't even have time to brush my hair half the time let alone do a netty pot 2x a day. and they also want me to call them when i get a sinus infection rather than my sinus doctor. does that make sense??? no! so basically i'm not a fan of the allergist. next week i have my sleep study. my sinus doc thinks i might have sleep apnea so he wants me to get tested. i got a packet of information and a survey to fill out about my sleeping habits. in the packet it says that they will be putting sticky patches in my hair and on my face, plastic discs in my nose and a finger prick thingie on my thumb. they said if my oxygen levels are low they might wake me up and put a breathing mask on me in the middle of the night. and they seriously expect me to actually sleep like i normally do!? hilarious. after i get the results from the study i have to go back to my sinus doctor to figure out next steps. i'm just feeling pretty overloaded with mixed messages and too many doctors appointments. currently, i have a chiropractor, a lady doc, a dentist, opthamologist, a general doctor, an ENT and an allergist. it's TOO much i just want to feel better. i am very grateful to have insurance and have the opportunity to try to feel better. i'm just getting a wee bit overwhelmed. hopefully after the sleep study i can call it quits for awhile!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

girl's weekend!

my best bud tara won a free weekend in a cabin in galena and she invited and she invited me and a bunch of our other girlfriends to join her last weekend! we had a great time catching up, drinking lots of wine, eating lots of junk food and making friends with the locals. some highlights were:

* getting taco bell on the drive down - mmmm nachos bell grande!
* girl talking and drinking wine until the wee hours of the morning
* trying a variety of spicy and hot foods at the farmers market and different shops. hot and spicy is big in galena apparently!
* meeting real life ghostbusters - hilarious
* the stars were phenomenal
* trying my first "beer nugget"
* waking up from a nap to the most gorgeous autumn sunset and doing an impromptu photo shoot
* sampling beers at the galena brewery
* singing karaoke and getting the crowd amped up
* getting the girls to do a little photo shoot by our cabin in their pjs before taking off

overall it was a great weekend! so nice to leave the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives and catch up with my favorite ladies. hope we can do it again sometime!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

legit halloween celebrations.

last year i was called the halloween grinch. i believe i fit that role again this year. i'm really not into spending money on a costume and getting dressed up and going out to the bars for a crazy night crammed with a bunch of people in smelly or slutty costumes. i am however, all about doing the scary stuff and traditional halloweeny activities. this year i boycotted the going out part and did the fun stuff.

last weekend i got to do pumpkin carving and watch hocus pocus with my rugby girls. i haven't carved a pumpkin since jr. high and it's a lot harder than i remember!! i went with an easy design of a bat. my buds were more skilled in carving and went with more difficult carvings - a troll, the word boo! and a skull. they turned out great and we had a really good time! i also went to the chronicles of the cursed haunted house with my friend mary. i LOVE being scared and watching scary movies and going to haunted houses so i was so glad someone was down to go to the haunted houses with me. i got VERY nervous before we went in but it wasn't too scary - just a lot of fun!

this weekend i decided to try out rocky horror picture show at the music box for a non-traditional halloween night out. let me say, i'm glad i did it but boy was it miserable. it was sold out and so crowded and everyone was so drunk. tara had never seen it before and i didn't really know what to expect. i didn't realize how much stuff is thrown at you and how much yelling would take place. but man, it's just not fun if you don't know the lines or if you're not 3 sheets to the wind. so we left early after getting pelted with milk duds and getting covered in confetti. it was definitely an experience! on saturday rob and i went to dream reapers haunted house in melrose park. we went a couple of years ago and it was really good so we wanted to try it out again. it was so much better and SO scary!!! we were so freaked out and just had the best time ever. later on we went to the morning benders concert at lincoln hall which was great. on sunday we did some errands and made a stop at the halloween parade in boystown. i went last year and loved it but this year it was moving so slow and it was quite chilly so we only stayed for awhile. it was pretty incredible to check out everyone's costumes though. not only the people in the parade but just on the street. people get pretty crazy in my hood. our favorite was an oscar the grouch. i can't even explain how he did it - but he had a dummy's torso holding the garbage can, his legs attached to the dummies torso and then his body in the oscar costume in the garbage can. it was cool! overall, i'm pleased with how i celebrated halloween this year. the only thing i would like to add to next year's festivities is fright fest at six flags!

Friday, October 22, 2010

happiness in pictures.

top 10 recent pics that bring me joy and happiness.
@ katelyn & bled's wedding
my bingo buds joe and lee

my folks with me and rob @ meg & ry's wedding

my buds and the hot dog guy at a cubs game this summer

me and luke at hunky dory!

ness, tob, ry, bella, meg and i at the shedd
my awesome students at reunion
my last meal in france

my dad dancing at meg & ry's wedding

my gerbil, hef

Monday, October 18, 2010

Post 150: Happily Grateful

"the more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate."

this is my 150th post and i'm happy to report that i still feel as though i am truly the luckiest girl in the world. there are so many reasons i feel lucky and grateful to live the life that i do but it's mostly because of the special relationships i have with everyone in my life.

i have my wonderful loving family with my awesome parents and thoughtful brother. i also lucked out and i am part of my bf's amazing family as well. i love them like my own family! on top of that i feel like i'm part of all of my friend's families - all of my high school friends have great parents that welcome me with open arms into their homes and i love spending time with all of them! i feel so lucky to be part of so many families.

i have a job that i enjoy and i get to work with people that i enjoy, that challenge me, acknowledge my successes and support me and my efforts.

i volunteer with interesting and interested senior citizens. they share some very fascinating and sometimes wacky stories with me and they are always excited to hear about my life. when i walk in to play bingo on mondays and i'm greeted with a smile and a big "well, hello jennifer" from my favorite buddy lee i can't help but smile back.

and my friends. what would i do without all of my friends? when i sit back and think - i'm shocked at how big my friend circle has expanded. i am so grateful to still be thick as thieves with my high school gals and so glad that many of them are now close with my college gals. all of them are always there to listen, plan fun activities, try new things, take little trips, share secrets, keep secrets, laugh till it hurts, support me, party hard and just be really good friends. i always have fun with all of my girls and i can't wait to continue to have the times of our lives together.

and lastly my true love! we're almost at 8.5 years together!!! i couldn't be happier with where we're at. we've grown up together and taken our own path to get to where we are today. i love that we do everything our way and that we figure everything out together. i love that when we're together it feels like home no matter where we are. i love that we still laugh together and that we're always trying new things and that even if we're sitting on the couch just laying low it still brings us both happiness. i am so grateful for rob's patience, kindness, support and of course his love!

i'm one lucky duck :)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

minnesota weekend!

i realize that it's already almost a new weekend but i still want to report about my nice weekend in minnesota. rob and i carpooled with his dad, little bro and his gf to the twin cities for their cousin's wedding. we didn't get in until late on friday but we had the whole day saturday to do fun stuff. we got to grab brunch with one of our hunky dory friends that lives in the area which was so fun! after we ate we made a trip to the como zoo. the fall colors there were so much more vibrant than they are here in illinois - as you can see in the photo above! i was really enjoying being outside in the unusually hot weather and beautiful scenery. the zoo kind of reminds me of the lincoln park zoo since it's free and some exhibits are a bit odd. like the tiger in a grassy knoll with a baby pool or the huge habitat for 2 little foxes. regardless, it was really fun to see so many animals and spend time outside. our friend amanda had to head to a wedding a bit early so we said our goodbyes and then checked out the conservatory which was fairly uneventful so we went off to find mini golf nearby. i haven't played in so long and i had forgotten how fun it is! we had a good time and then headed back to the hotel for quick naps before the wedding. the wedding took place in a public park overlooking the mississippi river and beautiful trees. their cousin katelyn already married her husband bledi in albania this summer and they also did a courthouse wedding recently. this was more of a family celebration and party so his aunt patty and cousin kim led the ceremony. they did a very good job in honor of katelyn's grandma who was unable to be there. it was beautiful and very special. the reception was at a restaurant called brassa. the restaurant has a very cool vibe with windows that slide open like garage doors and really cool lights and different sized tables. they also had their wedding video from their albanian reception playing which was fun to see. the food was unbelievable! we had pulled pork, roasted chicken, cheesy grits, cornbread and all sorts of other stuff. we really loved it! i had a great time catching up with rob's family members at this special occasion. i feel so blessed to have more than one family to be part of. i'm so glad that we could make it! the twin cities sort of remind me of milwaukee. there seems to be a lot to do, it's got more nature than chicago and it still has a smaller city feel. i'd go back! here are a few of my favorite pics!

Friday, October 8, 2010

food coma.

so i had another food filled extravaganza last week and i have a lot to report! it started on monday at the crossing's soft opening ( the crossing tavern is part of the four corners tavern group. my good friend, shalva works at brownstone so she got invited to the crossing's soft opening and invited me and my other friend, tara. the bar itself is really nice and spacious with tons of tvs. we sat down and were informed we could order whatever we wanted for free and our beers would be half off. we were in heaven. we got cheesy garlic bread which is made on their pizza crust - so tasty. then shalva ordered their signature meat covered pizza, i got a turkey ranch burger and tara got their korean tacos. the turkey burger was definitely my fave - i loved the seasoning and the sweet potato fries i got with it. the pizza was our least favorite and the tacos were just fine. we ended the night with a chocolate skillet cookie. it was ridiculously good and we ate every last bite. overall it was a great night with good bar food and even better girl talk.

the next night we had a high school girls dinner at longman and eagle ( the servers were very helpful - they helped us figure out which drinks we'd like best and told us what they honestly thought about each menu item. we started with meatballs with creamy polenta, parsley pesto and fontina cheese fondu and a soft pretzel with welsh rarebit. the meatballs were divine - a tad too pesto-y for some but overall amazing. the pretzel was fine but the dipping sauce was fab! then i ordered the pork belly which came with hazelnut spaetzle, red cabbage and apple fennel conserve. MIND BLOWING. seriously probably the best thing i've eaten all year. the pork belly was crispy and the red cabbage complimented it perfectly, adding a little eastern euro flair. the hazlenut spaetzle was equally ridiculous and made the plate more modern and unique and the apple fennel conserve was a perfect sweet touch. we all tried bites off each other's plates and there wasn't anything i didn't like. it was a great meal. sometimes i wonder if the company makes the food taste even better :) i love these girls dearly and we always have amazing meals together.

on friday rob and i joined vanessa and tobi, their friend and nessa's sis val and her bf at chizakaya, the new japanese small plates place in lakeview that everyone is raving about. to be honest, i don't really remember what we ate but here's what i do remember - puffed pig ears (just like pork rinds), black endamame with sea salt, a taste of bone marrow, beef cheek, pork meatballs, beef sirlon with lime wasabi, a noodle dish with veggies - so yummie, fried corn fritter and a variety of other things. some stuff i loved, other stuff not so much. it was interesting and i'd try it again! i liked the vibe of the restaurant.

saturday morning i went to brunch at ann sathers with ness and part of her family, who i love! it was nice to spend the extra time with her before she left and eat the giant cinnamon rolls of course. later that night rob and i joined my family at pequods for my brother's birthday. he loved the pizza there, who doesnt!? it was just as good as i remembered and i was happy to give him a nice birthday.

i ended the weekend off with dinner at revolution brewing for my friend molly's birthday. i wasn't feeling so hot but i wouldn't miss the celebration for anything! we all shared bacon fat popcorn with crispy sage and shaved Parmesan. soooo good. then i got a mustard herb chicken sandwich with fontina cheese, arugula and roasted garlic. it was super flavorful and very tasty. i really liked it! then we ended with a red velvet cake made by her roomie that was super good!

by the end of a full week of dining out, i was in a definite food coma. i also had caught the flu along the way :( i'm still recovering but i'm pretty much better now and i'm looking forward to enjoying food again!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

meg & ryan's wedding celebration!

this weekend i had the honor of standing up in my oldest friend's wedding! it was truly an amazing day and we all had so much fun! meg is my oldest and dearest friend - we've been buds since 4th grade! i am so glad that we are still so close and that i had the opportunity to stand up in her wedding. it meant the world to me. i love meg, her hubby and their beautiful baby bella SO much! we had the rehearsal on friday and had the dinner at castos for yummie italian food. she gave all of her bridesmaids coach wristlets! they are so generous!! after the rehearsal the bride invited all her bridesmaids to stay over for a little slumber party. the next day we woke up to yummie brunch and started to get our hair done while her daughter bella watched blues clues. it was super relaxing and the stylist rocked it with all of our hair, i loved my up do! we all got dressed and headed to the church, took some pics and got ready for the ceremony to begin. the ceremony was great because the deacon is the father of a friend from grade school and high school and he made it very personal. meg's sister also sang and she is so talented, it was beautiful. after the ceremony we hopped on the party bus for drinks and fake mustaches :). we got to gaelic park where the reception was held and took really fun pictures with the photographer and then hung out in the bridal suite while everyone arrived. then the reception began and we ate delic dinner and started to dance the night away! the room was so perfect and the dj was great so we were having a wonderful time. my parents were there and i got them to dance with me to ushers "yeah" - pretty hilarious. i caught the bouquet which is pretty fun! but meg basically threw it to me so i don't think it counts. we did lots more dancing and then the reception ended before we knew it and then we went to the hotel they were staying at for drinks and more catching up. then rob, my wonderful DD drove me and a couple of buds back to his parents. rob and i woke up the next day to mrs. j's delicious breakfast and were able to catch up before heading back to the city. i spent the rest of the day in a zombie like state in front of my tv. super productive :)

overall it was incredibly special and fun and i wish i could do it all over again!

Monday, September 20, 2010

food filled weekend!

i had a great weekend despite being a little under the weather. this weekend was all about the food, just as i like it to be. it started on friday afternoon when i met my old boss and her new adorable baby for lunch at caffe de luca in bucktown. i had a great salad and we caught up on their patio. it was so nice. later that night, rob and i went to pho&i a new vietnamese/thai place in our neighborhood. i've been wanting to try it because it's the same owners as my favorite cheapo thai place, duck walk. we split an order of crab rangoon and i got spicy fried catfish in a red curry and rob got a spicy fried rice. it was very very spicy but i really liked it! i was excited to try something different. afterwards we went to a show at the metro. it was a good date night.

after a relaxing mani/pedi with my friend darc, i met my girlfriends mary and tara at jam for a delicious dinner. jam originally only did brunch but they expanded to lunch and dinner and man, am i glad they did! we split 2 tasting menus and 1 entree. the tasting menu included a heirloom tomato salad with blue cheese and a chocolate puree - yum! the next course was foie gras ravioli - bigger yum. then we had pork tenderloin on toast with olive tampenade which was very tasty. the entree was a pork chop with quinoa and apricots. super good. and the desserts were to die. one was a panna cotta with fruit on top and the other was a chocolate hazelnut cake with melted chocolate on the inside with ice cream on the side sprinkled with hazelnuts. we ended up ordering another of the cake because it was so damn good. i really liked it and i'd definitely recommend it.

on sunday i laid around a lot to try to feel better and eventually met all my rugby friends out for burgers at urban burger bar. i was pretty disappointed. the service was not very good and the food was sub-par. i had a braised short rib burger with warm onions and a fennel slaw. it was good but i was bummed everyone else's food was just ok. all the burgers came out SO rare. and they forgot toppings on one of them. not cool! regardless, it was lots of fun to see everyone and catch up!

overall it was a great weekend full of food, friendship and love. couldn't ask for anything more.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

fall obsessions.

i LOVE fall. it brings back a lot of memories of colorguard, first days of school and halloweens. we've had a few autumn days here and there but it still has been in and out of the high 70s. on days like today when it's a bit overcast and the air is crisp, i get a little giddy. all the students are back on campus and it feels alive again! i started classes and while they are already kicking my butt, it's fun to be back in a classroom. i am very excited to wear my favorite fall fashions: my gray cape/wrap, my black boots, my leather vest and all of my fun jackets. i have approximately 7 jackets that are only wearable for a few weeks a year. i'm obsessed with lightweight jackets and they are totally impractical in chicago because it's really either summer or winter here with mini falls and springs. i just bought a new black belted jacket that i definitely didn't need but i love it and i can't wait to wear it! fall is also a time when i can show off all of my leaf decor in my apartment. i keep it out all year because i love leaves but at this time of year it actually makes sense :) i also love fall food. i ate butternut squash ravioli today. DELIC! and my absolute favorite holiday is thanksgiving! i love that it's about giving thanks and spending it with people you love and are grateful for but i especially love the food ofcourse. especially the cold turkey sandwiches. i hope we get a good fall this year and that it doesn't jump right into winter! what does everyone else love about fall?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

wonderful weekend!

this weekend was a great way to wrap up summer! it was full of amazing highlights and quality time. on friday it started with....OPRAH!!!! my friend entered a raffle for last minute tickets and WON! she got 4 tickets total so we got to do a girl's outing to see the big O. we had no idea what to expect and no clue who the guests were. we were just SO excited! we all got there bright and early at 7 a.m. we discover in line that the guests were to be winona and naomi judd. SUPER RANDOM. but people were excited so we got excited too! we wait and wait and wait and finally get moved into a large room where they announce that they will be calling people by the number on their sheet or some parties by name. we look at our sheet and it was in the 200s. we were a little bummed because we thought we wouldn't get good seats but nope, they called our party name and we got seated SECOND ROW CENTER! we were like giddy little school girls! we don't know how this happened or why we got selected but we did and it was awesome!!!! people take their oprah experience very seriously. there were lots of tears, even more screaming and lots of freak show oprah super fans. the show went by so fast but it was so memorable!

later that night i went out for drinks with a few girls and we had a blast. lots of laughing. saturday was the BEST day ever! rob and i drove up to michigan and made a stop in st. joes for pastries, their farmers market, craft fair and art museum. it was absurdly windy but we still enjoyed ourselves quite a bit. the art museum had ultra realistic sculptures which rob really enjoyed and i found some cute stuff at the craft fair. after that we drove to an orchard and went apple picking. we were really in the fall spirit and got some very very delicious apples! then we had to make one last stop for the season at redamaks. it was So yummie! later that night i rallied a bunch of my girlfriends for an evening out. we started at a major dive and just caught up and then moved on to some other stops. it was so great to have so many friends out!

sunday i slept in and then went to see rob play in a friend's band at the bash on wabash with tara. the fest was a total bust! there was no one there and nothing to do. very odd fest. but it was beautiful out so it was nice to be there. then rob and i wanted to go to jazz fest that night but it was sprinkling so we went to see the switch instead. it was a cute flick. on monday i went to pick up a new foster cat and i got mister. a 14 year old white cat that weighs 19 pounds. he just had surgery so one side of him is shaved and he has a big scar. he smells awful, licks weird things like the blinds and the scab is really freaking me out. i don't know if i've ever had such an aversion to one of my cats before. i've been petting him with big fleece gloves on so my hands don't stink. but he is pretty well behaved and very sweet which i'll gladly take. later on i went to bingo and hung out with my seniors and it was great! overall it was a really wonderful weekend!

Monday, August 30, 2010

France: The final recap!

Here's the final recap of my trip to France:

Day 9: This was another wonderful day! We started off going to the adorable hilltop medieval village of Perouges where many scenes from the film Monsieur Vincent were filmed. It was absolutely
unreal that it's a functioning town. It looked fake it was so lovely. We all really enjoyed walking around and looking at the very old church. Next we went to Chatillon-sur-Chalaronne which has a church where Vincent was pastor and he formed the mission here. We got off the bus and one of the Daughters of Charity was there to greet us. Father Ed said this was a new development and that we should just go with it. She
took us to the home that Vincent stayed at and that now the Daughters in that area stay. It was in this town that he worked with the sick and he realized what he can do on a larger scale with the Gaundis at more parishes around the country. We watched a video in the room that Vincent stayed, got to walk up the same very steps that he did and look at some items they have collected there. The Daughter spoke in French and Father Ed translated and for some reason I was incredibly moved. I teared up! It was just such an amazing experience being in that room and interacting with this woman that has given her life to live Vincent's mission! At this point, I knew exactly why this trip was so important and what it would mean to me. After our time at the church
we had some time to walk aroundand shop and look at all the gorgeous flowers. We had a great group lunch together and then we returned to Lyon. I decided to enjoy some alone time before our dinner cruise. I checked out the cathedral and some shops by myself and then went for a run by the river. I was practically bursting to do something active and it felt great to run in the beautiful scenery and blend in with the people that lived there. Then we had our dinner cruise with the whole group which was a great experience. Lyon was one of my favorite stops. The vibe reminded me of home.

Day 10: We drove to Tournous and made a stop at a Romanesque Church which
was incredibly different from all the other churches we visited. There were interesting medieval frescoes and a cool crypt. I walked th rough a free exhibit and looked in
some shops before we took off. Next stop was Beaune which is a major wine city. It's very small and cute. I went off with a few
folks for our independent lunch and got another delicious quiche and a sweet treat and we ate it in a park before we went off exploring. We eventually went our own ways and I stopped in a church that had medieval tapestries and I found a couple of good gifts to bring back home. Then the group met up and visited a hospital that was like the ones that Vincent worked in. After that we got to go to a wine tasting which was really fun! The wine cellar was like a maze and some of us even got lost. We tried all sorts of wines and I picked one to bring back home to share with my family. Later on we went out to dinner at a restaurant that was a in a 13th century cavern. It was very cool and we had a delicious meal of chicken in a creamy cheese sauce with mashed potatoes. So wonderful!

Day 11: I started getting sad on this day that the trip was coming to a close. I was ready to come home and get back to normal life and see "my people" but I was just enjoying the trip so much I didn't want it to end. We started the day at the AMAZING market in Beaune. it was beautiful and everything just looked so lovely. I bought lots of things here to get rid of my euros! I gota big chunk of cheese and some pretzel bread to eat for dinner later, caramels for rob, more mustard and soap for me. I think I seriously teared up while I was walking through because i just didn't want to go! Then we made a stop at a church that had a 14th century exposed painting that portrayed a "dance with death" relating to the Plague. The church also had an absolutely unbelievable garden that we got to walk thrgouh. Again, I might have teared up. Then we had our closing lunch in an outside restaurant. We had the most unbelievable food! It started with these flakey cheesy pastry
things that i can't even describe. Then we had a caprese salad that was perfection. Then we had beef bourguignon. To die for! and on top of that there was a cheese course that just blew my mind. probably the best thing i ate the whole trip. and it ended with an almond stick and sugared fruit cup. After lunch we went to Joigny to see some final Vincent sites like the Gaundi Chateau. Then we went to the airport hotel in Paris. I ate my cheese and pretzel bread and we all played cards till late. It was nice to end the trip all together. The next morning we went to the airport and we were on our way!

It's hard to explain the impact that this trip had on me. I'm so passionate about DePaul and this just furthered my connection to the university. It also changed my understanding of the mission. Being able to see and experience where it all started, really made me think deeply about what it means to be Vincentian. The idea that we must not just do things but do them well really stuck with me and I can really apply that to my work and everyday life. Overall, i feel so grateful to have been given the opportunity to experience this and connect with so many people throughout the university. Now I'm ready for my next trip!

Monday, August 23, 2010

France: the recap! Part 2

day 5: i had the entire day off from group activities so i got to spend the whole day with vanessa. we met up early and went to the louvre. i got free tickets through the program. i was pretty excited. we got there really early and went straight for mona and then went to the winged victory statue and venus de milo. after that we went into decorative arts and ended up in napolean's apartments. that was the coolest thing we saw! we really enjoyed them. then we left. the louvre isn't really my thing after all. it's just not the type of art i enjoy but i'm still glad to have seen all the famous stuff! after that we tried walking to the bon marche market but it was closed :( so we found a street market and i bought soaps and the most amazing cheese ever!!! then we grabbed a small lunch nearby and people watched. after that we walked to the luxemburg gardens and soaked up the sun. the gardens were probably my favorite site in paris. i absolutely loved them. then it was time to say goodbye to nessa. time flew so quickly but it was really just wonderful to spend time with her! later that night i went to a cheap dinner with valerie. we got pizza which was good because i was having a french food overload. we split a pizza and a bottle of wine and only spent about 10euros each. love it!

day 6: we had to get up SO early to leave at 5:30 a.m. to catch a train to dax. dax is known for it's annual bullfighting festival and it has many other spanish influences. we made a stop for lunch and i got a quiche and a chocolate crossiant and then we got a short tour of the area. vincent went to school there for a short time and we got to see the house he lived in for awhile. we made a stop in the tiny town that vincent was born in and got to see the baptismal font that vincent was baptized in. that was pretty cool. after that we went to pau where we were staying and had dinner. the hotel was in the middle of NOWHERE and there was nothing to do. it was pretty rough but it was good to have an early night after our early morning.

day 7: we made a stop in toulouse where we visited a couple of very cool churches and saw the university vincent studied at. we had an independent lunch and i ended up having chicken and frites with some terrible white wine. i wasn't too impressed. the city is cool though. it's kind of dirty/gritty compared to the other places we visited and i liked it. seems like it's a lot of students. they have a big beautiful square that had a market set up when we arrived. after that we went to carcassone which is a medieval walled city. i was really excited about this stop but when we went for a tour i realized how insanely touristy it was and immediately was grumpy. i took some alone time to walk around the area and then went back to the hotel for quiet time before dinner. we had a group dinner at the hotel and then some of us went for a nighttime walk around the city walls and then grabbed a drink. probably my least favorite day.

day 8: this day completely made up for my crabby day! we had long bus rides through countryside and i enjoyed the quiet time to myself. we made a stop at the pont du gard which an amazing roman aqueduct in great condition. it was a great stop to make! then we went to avignon which i immediately fell in love with. it is another walled in city but so much better than carcassone! it's not touristy really and it's more spread out. it's the old papal city. me valerie and john grabbed sandwiches and walked up to the garden on top of a hill top. we sat in the shade and then took some pictures of the view. after that we did a bit of shopping and i finally found a store with mustard and honey! all the others i checked out were always closed. i was very happy! then john and i got crepes! yum! then we drove on to lyon which is a pretty big city. we went to a fancy restaurant for dinner that had terrible service but the worlds yummiest asparagus soup and then went for a walk along the river. i like the feeling of lyon and was excited to explore the next day!

one more update to come!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

France: the recap! Part 1

I just returned from the Vincentian Heritage Tour that took me all around France to follow in the footsteps of St. Vincent de Paul and learn more about the university's mission. I was so lucky to have been chosen and I'm so grateful for getting to experience this wonderful trip! Here is a summary of the first few days with pictures below!

day 1: we arrived in paris after a brutally uncomfortable flight and immediately did a tour of the city. we made a pitstop near notre dame for lunch. i had a delicious quiche with bacon and then we walked around the area and spotted owen wilson checking out the cathedral! so cool! after a shower and a short nap i went for a short walk in the nearby promenade which is filled with pretty flowers and great sites. then we had a group dinner and then i promptly hit the hay! i was pretty overwhelmed with the city but excited to check out sites in the days to follow.

day 2: after a delicious breakfast at the hotel we went to the Vincentian Motherhouse which has a small museum with some incredible relics like Vincent's shoes, robe, watch and other interesting items. the highlight was the chapel that holds Vincent's remains. They have a very creepy realistic wax efigy of his body but underneath his remains are kept. it was pretty amazing to be able to see that. we also went to st. sulpice which had a Vincent chapel and a beautiful fountain in the front. We went to the Daughters of Charity Motherhouse which has a beautiful chapel that has Louise de Marillac's remains. The Daughters live to fulfill the mission of St. Vincent de Paul by serving the underprivileged. We got shushed out of the chapel so it wasn't as moving as the Vincentian Motherhouse. After that I went with some coworkers to explore and find dinner. We ended up at a one dish place that only served steak frites. you sit down and they ask you how you like your steak and then bring you a salad. they bring out half the steak and a serving of frites at the beginning. it had a delicious mustard basil sauce on it that was perfect. after youre done with that portion they bring out the rest of the steak and more frites! it was to die! one of my favorite meals for sure. i really bonded with one of the women on the trip and ended up spending a lot of the trip together.

day 3: this was one of my favorite days. we took a bus trip to folleville. the mission has its origins in a sermon that Vincent gave at the church here. it was my first glimpse of french countryside and all the beauty that comes along with it. i really enjoyed getting out of the city to the quiet of folleville where i could focus on soaking up this moment. there are castle ruins on the grounds too that were pretty cool to see (pic below). then we had the most wonderful lunch. this was my first non jetlagged group meal and i really enjoyed it! we had a delicious meal including a cheesy crepe mushroom casserole thing and a chicken dish and a decadent dessert. so yummie! after that we drove a bit to amiens to see the famous cathedral. i really wanted to stick around in amiens longer because it looked so lovely but we only visited the cathedral which is ENORMOUS! its so grand and overwhelming. i loved having the opportunity to see that. after that we headed back to the city and i connected with vanessa, my bff currently living in germany who came to visit! we caught up for awhile and then ventured out to dinner and ended up at Bofinger which is supposedly the oldest brassierie in Paris. i started with the onion and cheese soup (holy moly!) and then got steak and green veggies. we shared sorbet afterwards. it was funny though because i don't know any french at all and saw the word porc and figured id just go with that but the waiter kept trying to tell me that it was pork foot. when i finally realized what it was i went with the steak instead! it was like a breath of fresh air having nessa there. i didn't have to think about what to talk about or worry about making good impressions. we talk almost everyday on gchat but being in person is so much better!

day 4: in the morning the group went to a few churches and the original site of St. Lazare. afterwards i met vanessa for some site seeing! we grabbed quiches and raspberry tarts from a nearby bakery and sat in the sun to enjoy the quiches and took the tarts for later. that quiche is still one of the best things i ate the entire trip. we took the metro into the city center and went to notre dame and then ate our tarts in the courtyard infront of it. they were SO good. the rest of the day is a blur - i don't remember what order we did the following things in - we sat in the park behind notre dame and listened to live jazz, got gelato at a famous shop, shopped at some souvenir stands, visited a famous plant market and then went to champs elysees for some shopping. we ended up at the arc de triomphe for photo ops. after that we tried to go to the bistro nessa ate at on her last trip to paris but it was too full so we went next store which is owned by the same company. it was one of the most decadent and delicious meals EVER! we both started with lobster salads and then i got shrimp ravioli in an artichoke foam. crazy. then we split an amazing chocolate tart. all so wonderful! then we busted a move to get to the last boat cruise on the seine. i got free tickets for us through the trip. it was a bit rainy so the boat was totally empty. we tried to sit outside but we kept getting wet so we watched from inside and went out for the big sites. we were both so full we could barely move! afterwards we caught the eifel tower light show at midnight. so lovely :).

more updates to come!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Recap of the craziest vacation EVER!

i just returned from Hunky Dory and it was quite the week! the vacation was literally doomed but we still somehow managed to have lots of fun. it started off last weekend with driving through an intense rain storm, the arriving at hunky dory to discover the boat needed a new battery - mr. j went to buy one and then it disappeared - stolen, lost, forgotten - we still don't know! then there was a gas leak in the boat, then rob's brother-in-law threw out his back, rob's cousin had a minor tubing accident and there were also bear sitings so we were freaking out about that. then there was a tornado/crazy storm that took out 48 trees and 4 cars -all jensen cars :( and left us with no electricity or water on and off for the rest of the trip. it was a HUGE downer and really upsetting to see the resort so messed up. i've never seen a storm like it. we watched it all go down from the lodge - trees snapping in half and being uprooted and canoes being lifted and blown into the water. no one was hurt but it caused so much damage. luckily the neighbors and friends pulled through and worked so hard to get everything up and running. that night rob's cousin's girlfriend got in a car accident on her way to pick up his cousin and totaled her car! it was one disaster after another! but miraculously by the next day a lot had been cleared up and breakfast was still served on time. but the drama didn't end for long - the day before we left rob's dad dislocated his hip! he had to be taken to a hospital to get it put back in place and he didn't get to come back with us. one of his sisters drove him back the next day. luckily he's doing alright now. we found out that night that one of the neighbors suffered a mild heart attack and on the way home rob's brother got pulled over for a speeding warning too! i know it sounds like i'm making it up but it all happened! totally doomed i tell ya.

despite all of this craziness we still had a lot of fun. i saw more animals then ever before up there - lots of eagle sitings, huge snapping turtle, tons of chipmunks, a snake, a baby squirrel, finches and more. i skiied a lot, walked and ran a few times, canoed and even got a little tan without getting too sunburned. and ofcourse - ate my little heart out. however, the best part was baby luke being there! i LOVE him and loved every second i got to hold him and make him laugh. it was sooo fun to have a baby around. i can't wait to see him in october - he will be so big by then! it was also great to spend so much time with rob's brother who will be leaving for bali in about a week. he will be gone for 10 months so it was wonderful for all of us to have so much quality time. it was also perfect to spend so much time with rob because i'm going to be leaving for FRANCE TOMORROW!!!!!!!!!!!!! i'll blog all about it when i return on august 15. see ya!