Saturday, August 31, 2013

Muffinscape! ...

Friday, August 30, 2013

Of Horrid Jackasses, Those Who Lack Integrity, And Jerks ...

I have a friend who is very fond of acronyms. She coined a new one today to describe her new boss: HJA.

Which stands for "horrid jackass."

Here's hoping he is not her boss for long.

And I was watching "Holmes On Holmes" very early this morning, because it was on when I woke up on the couch. Someone, in the name of home improvement, had come along and nearly destroyed the foundation of a house.

Here's a thought: If you don't know what you're doing when it comes to construction, stay the hell away from the foundation of a house.

And I am gathering estimates to have my water main replaced – ah, the joys of homeownership! – and I have all but entirely ruled out one plumber already because the guy is a jerk.

He's done some emergency work here before, and in an emergency, I was willing to put up with his jerkishness. But for something slightly more elective (though not at all elective)?

I am really, really, really disinclined to give that much money to a jerk.

Especially when another plumber came by today and he could not have been nicer. And he lives nearby. And he has a new dog. And he wasn't working today, but he stopped by to talk before heading to the links, though why he was going to play golf today of all days is beyond me.

At the moment, he stands a very good chance of winning the bid as his company has a good reputation and he is not a jerk.

See? It doesn't take much to make me happy:

Do good work. Don't be a jerk.

(I'm going to get a third estimate, too, though. I'm confident that man will not be a jerk. He comes highly recommended. So, hopefully, I'll be able to choose between two non-jerks.)

I know that everyone has their bad days. I certainly have my share.

But I have a pretty high degree of confidence that I am not a jerk.

Jerks don't bake cookies for friends and family, right?

Phew. Good. I'm in the clear.

Now if summer would just be on its way, I'll turn on my oven again.

Do something nice for someone today.

I'll do the same.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Renaissance Slasher ...

It's fascinating, how it's all beginning to gel.

Once upon a time, I wrote about the book The Renaissance Soul and just yesterday, I decided I didn't really need to read One Person/Multiple Careers: A New Nodel for Work/Life Success (she writes about "slash" careers, as in "rabbi/comedian" or "violin maker/therapist") as I'm effectively living the subject of the book. Which isn't radically different than The Renaissance Soul. The gist of both books is that not all people just do one thing. In fact, many don't. Most, even.

We're all just conditioned to see careers as singular entities. We ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, but the implication is that they're meant to pick something. The implication isn't "There's more than one answer! Don't get bogged down in choosing!"

And interestingly, in rereading the Renaissance post, I noticed that I brought up shame, which I've been reading about in Brené Brown's books, though I Thought It Was Just Me is on the table by the front door, along with the One Person book. I've read enough on both topics to get the gist of both.

And it's amusing, in its way, that I've returned to the "problem" of wanting to do more than one thing and not knowing how to choose, only this time, I have the understanding that choosing is not necessary. One day does not have to look exactly like the next.

Some days are more creative, some are more nuts and bolts. I've partnered with the estimable Michele Woodward and am pleased to apply my journalism background to help others tell their career stories. My writer/editor side asks the questions and fleshes out the details and my obsessive-attention-to-detail side formats to my heart's content. I derive an inordinate amount of pleasure out of tabs and indents and spaces between items in bulleted lists. Ah, order, I love you so.

I'll be editing an annual report this week. But I also have a cookie to dream up for Angelo. And I had a little scenario run through my head the other day as I was singing a song and afterward, my brain said, "That's a scene in the movie!" (The screenplay is creaking back to life.) And speaking of singing, I've been mulling some material to try out at open-mic nights. It's been far too long since I've been behind a microphone, and although performing damn near scares the bejeezus out of me, the exhilaration I feel after the last note more than makes up for the need for a glass of Scotch before I begin.

Last week, I spent two days with my once-a-year client, two delightful women who aren't stingy with their appreciation for my work – the dears – and next month, I'll be filling in onsite for a vacationing content manager.

I've grown to appreciate the variation in my days, instead of trying to zero in on "the" job.

I've had several "the" jobs. None of them lasted.

It took me awhile to get the hint.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Move Along, Summer. Move Along ...

I shouldn't complain, I know.

This summer has been rather pleasant, really, for those of us who do not like summer. The 4th of July was damn near balmy. The Chicago 3-Day walkers did not have to worry that they might spontaneously combust.

But Mother Nature is a saucy wench and here we are, the last week of August, and BLAM! Heat. Humidity. The need to turn on my a/c.

I go for a walk each morning, which I am very much inclined to skip on days when it's already 80 degrees at 7:30 and the humidity is 80 percent. But I go, because despite the heat and humidity and the occasional dead cicada that creeps me out, I also encounter moms walking their kids to school – today's mom was walking her son to school but also had her younger daughter in tow and she was clutching a stuffed squirrel which was very cute – as well as chalk drawings on sidewalks, one of which today featured a girl sticking out her tongue.

Which was about how I felt as I walked.

It's not as though Septemer in the part of the world is guaranteed to be pleasant. It can start veering toward fall or it can stay stuck, stubbornly, in summer.

I am hoping for the former.

There are plenty of leaves dropping already, no doubt because of the lack of rain this summer.

But I need the weather, please.

And the urge to turn on my oven, not the need to ponder meals that doesn't require the use of any heat.

Any time anyone would like to get on my suggestion to divvy up the earth seasonally by quadrants, I'll be happy to move to Fall. Though if it wouldn't be too much trouble, you can just make sure that Fall includes where I live now.

That'd be spiffy.

Thanks.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Hello, heirloom tomatoes on a grey day. Thank you, kind neighbor.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Siena Tavern ...

It's not as though Siena Tavern needs any more good press. It appears to be doing just fine.

But last night was my first visit. And Doreen's phone takes really large photographs – that they are not perfectly focused is on me – and while I am not usually the type to take pictures of my food before I eat it, I am so, so glad that I did, because, honest to God, one of the dishes on the table was one of the best dishes I have ever had in my life.

Arturo, our server, suggested it.

And now I am forever grateful to him for introducing me to coccoli. What is that, you ask? From the menu: "crispy dough, stracchino cheese, prosciutto di parma, truffle honey."

Now, I've had prosciutto wrapped around cheese. I've had it warm and melty. It is good. It really can't be otherwise.

But this? This dish is a revelation.

The sticky sweetness of the honey alone would be a lovely, inspired addition.

But the crispy dough? Think of profiteroles or popovers, but with more body and more taste. Now think of them hot out of the deep fryer, but not at all greasy. Now think of them split open, still steaming, and now think of a piece of the dough paired with a bit of the prosciutto, honey, and cheese.

The creaminess of the cheese and the saltiness of the prosciutto and the sweetness and stickiness of the honey and then the soft-on-the-inside, crisp-on-the-outside, warm fried dough?!

Now think of it all the way to the restaurant and order it. Pronto.

We also had the roasted beet salad, which Doreen suggested because she knew I would love it and because she's a fan of beets, too. It was tasty. And it was beautiful. But it will be a long, long time before anything in my life tops coccoli.

Behold, the antipasto masterpiece and the lovely beet salad:

The antipasto masterpiece is served on a beautiful wooden piece, reminiscent of something you'd expect to find topped with sushi, and I am very fond of the use of oval plates. I am a big fan of ovals.

We skipped cocktails and wine last night, but were perfectly content to sip water out of glasses made out of recycled green wine bottles. We were more interested in experiencing the food as purely as possible on our inaugural trip. (We will so, so, so be back. And I'm sure lots of things pair well with wine.)

Next, we shared the truffle mushroom pizza: "roasted wild mushrooms, garlic cream, mozzarella, white truffle oil."

Arturo asked if we'd like Parmesan and/or crushed red pepper flakes. I wanted the former, Doreen wanted the latter. I didn't take a picture when they arrived, but I was delighted that they were served in quarter-cup measuring cups. Genius. What a simple way to enable us to sprinkle them onto the slices.

Of course, anything topped with truffle oil really needn't be amended, but it was fresh Parmesan, ground in a food processor, I presume, not grated. Nice texture, not cheese dust.

And behold, the truffle mushroom pizza:

I ate almost all of my crust. In the name of research, of course. Crust is a very important component of pizza and too many people don't bother to develop the flavor. It's not just a conveyance for toppings. It's part of the dish. Chef Fabio's is good. It supports the toppings, both as a complement flavor-wise and literally. It has body. Structure. A nice bit of chew.

The gelato offerings were impressive and varied. I could have easily selected four flavors that I simply had to try, but I'm glad that we only ordered two, as the scoops were more than ample for someone who just wanted a few tastes. The hazelnut was outstanding, a lovely bookend to the meal that began so auspiciously. The pistachio was good, too. But the hazelnut was better. But then, I am partial to hazelnut gelato. It is my first-choice gelato. Most things hazelnut are my first-choice choices.

And it is surely worth mentioning the interior. We sat at a rectangular table for four, with an iron, chyrsanthemum base and a tabletop composed of pieces of wood set on 45-degree angles. Like a parquet floor, of sorts. Our chairs were insanely comfortable, tufted, buttery-soft leather* barrel chairs. (Can leather be honed? If so, the leather on the chairs and booths are honed. *It may well be synthetic – that would make sense in a restaurant – but the effect is spot on.) The space is laid out on several levels, so we were on the main floor, next to a floor-to-ceiling window, while right across from us was a series of half-round booths, also tufted. And behind us – visible to me from my perspective – was yet another level, set off by steel railings, with the booth tufting making its way up the wall and across the ceiling, and flanked by truly spectacular sconces. Empty frames line the walls. Edison bulbs are suspended over the half-round booths. Really well thought out. It invites lingering, even amidst the bustle.


So go. The hours are ridiculous in their accessibility:

Mon-Fri: 11:30am-2am
Sat: 10am-3am
Sun: 10am-2am

And you can see a nice slideshow of images here.

Go. Go. Just go.


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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Bread Just Gets In The Way ...

My sleep has been wonky.

Friday night, I dozed off at 7:30 – yes, in the evening – and woke up to my phone ringing. I looked at the clock: 9:30. I tried to peer at the Caller ID on my phone, but I had fallen asleep with my contacts in and my vision wasn't cooperating. When I was finally able to focus, I saw that the call was from ... Aurelio's Pizza.

Huh?

I checked for a message. Nothing. So I presumed that someone at Aurelio's had misdialed.

Crap.

If you're going to wake me up, pizza man, the least you can do is deliver a pie. Sausage and mushroom, for future reference. Thanks.

I stayed up for a couple hours and eventually drifted back to sleep.

And then I woke up at another wonky hour.

So I watched a few episodes of "30 Rock." I have a few seasons on DVD and there really is no better way to watch a show. Uninterrupted. Twenty-two minute snippets. In just over an hour, three episodes. Wham, bam, thank you, Liz Lemon.

I had watched a few episodes here and there during the show's run, but now I'm able to see it in its greater context. It really is brilliant. Sitcoms rarely make me laugh out loud.

Later, after daylight had broken and I'd had some iced coffee, mom and I went for a walk to the farmers' market. I saw a man with a very, very cute dog on a leash. But he wasn't very near me, and mom stopped to chat with someone she knows. By the time the chat was over, the man with the very, very cute dog was nowhere to be seen. Sad. I wanted to pet him.

Alas.

Mom and I ran to a butcher shop to buy bacon. For years and years, we've been buying bacon – and ham – from a butcher in Wisconsin, but it's been a long time since a ham-and-bacon run has happened.

But this bacon was lovely. Beautiful, even. The road-trip-to-Wisconsin-to-buy-ham-and-bacon days may be behind us. Beautiful local bacon is one hell of a find.

At her house, she fried up a pound and I made a BLT using leaves of romaine as the "bread," with a good smear of mayo, a few slices of thick-cut bacon, a small handful of grape tomatoes, halved, and a good grind of pepper and salt.

It was fabulous, if a bit messy. All of the flavors, none of the bread. Next time, though, I think I need to employ some iceberg lettuce leaves and make tidier bundles.

A few errands later, I was back at home and amazed that it was only 11:30. Days are much longer when you begin them in the dark.

I had a pesky headache that wasn't going away. So I flopped down and watched more "30 Rock." A lot more, actually. All of Season 3.

Night fell.

Aurelio's didn't call.

Alas.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

From 'I Think I Want A Brownie' To Brownies ...

Melt. Measure. Mix. Bake. Cool. Frost. Magic.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The 3-Day: Slightly Wistful Edition ...

This weekend, I'm a 3-Day voyeur.

I'm looking at pictures and tweets on Twitter from folks who are walking the last Chicago 3-Day and I'm feeling a bit nostalgic.

There is a Vine of the last walker arriving tonight in camp. The last-ever last-walker ceremony in Chicago. (I do not expect the event to ever return.) The last-walker ceremony was always one of my favorite parts of the 3-Day. A lot of hoopla and cheering and tears. I cried for the better part of those three days every year. It's hard not to, when you're a sap like me.

I gasped a little gasp yesterday when I saw on Twitter that there are about 800 walkers this year. I've walked events with more than 2,000, so 800 is a stark reminder of what's become of Komen. (Of course, Komen's PR folks are claiming that the difficult economy is at the core of why participation is so down and why the schedule of events has been cut in half for 2014. But we all know better. I won't sully the post with that business.)

So I've been thinking about the walkers this weekend. Oh, what amazing weather they have for walking! August in Chicago can be quite the sauna, but this weekend has been lovely. So that's nice, to end on a cool note, as it were.

And I've been thinking about all the amazing people I met through my seven 3-Days. I've lost touch with many of them – Pat, if you're somehow reading this, I hope you're well! – but others have become fixtures, some slightly more permanent than others.

I'm welling up right now, remembering Mike telling me about one of his sons, who was just a little guy at the time and who gave Mike $5 toward his fundraising. His wife, Colleen, sends a Christmas card every year. The boys are no longer little.

The year after I met Mike, he surprised me on the route. He was out and about and saw the walkers, so he pulled over for a while, hoping I'd walk by. I did. I was stunned to see him. Of course, I cried.

Erin and Shel were his family teammates the year he walked. I was to be Erin's tentmate. We're both too tall to share a tent. As luck would have it, another family member who was supposed to walk with them never showed up, so Erin and Shel shared a tent, and Mike and I each had our own digs.

A big team of walkers welcomed me with open arms the year that I met Jen, one of the teammates, and she and I offered a workshop for folks who hadn't walked before. I saw Tina on the event the following year. She was the only one from the team to walk again. Many of us walked year after year, but many others did one event and crossed it off their bucket lists.

And then there's Amy, who has become the sister I never had. She appeared at my side in the early darkness of Day 1 one year, doing the walk herself that year. (Though as I always tell walkers, you're never truly doing the walk alone. There are hundreds – previously thousands – of fellow walkers and at least one of them is bound to become your friend for the weekend if not for life.)

She and I were very tired on Day 2 and decided that the only way to keep going was to find a way to laugh about it. So we stuck our arms out in front of us, limp at the wrists, and cracked up as we walked as the zombies we felt like that day.

I still do the zombie walk for a moment when I'm tired. And I think of Amy and I laugh and that little boost is enough to get me on my way.

I've lost touch with Michael and Monica but I'm sure they're doing well. Such a cool couple. She was crew that year, Michael was walking. He and I walked into Soldier Field together where Monica was waiting to tell him that she just found out she was going to be on "Chopped." She's an amazing chef. And Michael was one of the stars of that event. A tall man in a feathered hat, flouncy skirt, and giant bra can't help but attract a lot of attention. Oh, and his satin sash. Earned from posing in the frisky 60-Mile Men calendar. Oh, yes, it's a real thing. Oh, yes, it is what you're thinking.

And the memories keep coming as I type:

— Pink-beard Barry, who walked every event every year for a while, and when he couldn't walk, he'd crew.

— And Mt. Prospect, oh, the city of Mt. Prospect. Never has there been a more enthusiastic bunch of supporters. Residents decorated their front yards. The police wore pink shirts and helped us cross at major intersections. The firemen came out with a truck and posed for pictures with the walkers. Homeowners rigged their garden hoses to spray through fans to mist us as we walked by. Others set up sprinklers. Kids dressed up in costumes. One very sweet older woman set up a card table in her driveway and handed out pale-pink silk rose petals to thank us for walking and to remind us that we were loved. I still have mine, still stuck to the waistpack that I wore on every event.

— Which was given to me in Atlanta by my dear friend Adam, who was working with Dan Pallotta, back when they were still Pallotta TeamWorks events. I also still have the note that he wrote to me on that event. It's nearly falling apart at the creases now, but I would read it before every 3-Day, standing in the darkness, waiting for the event to begin.

There are a zillion more memories. I wrote letters to my contributors after every event and they were crammed full of little moments that made each event so special:

— The little boy who handed me a cup of blue Gatorade and beamed when I told him that blue Gatorade was my favorite.

— The kids standing outside their school on Day 1, some cheering, some shy, and the little girl missing her front teeth who repeated over and over with much gusto: "You can do it!"

— The older woman – I have always assumed she was a grandmother, as she was too adorable to not be someone's grandmother – who stood at a corner and hugged every walker as they approached her.

— My friend Gemma driving me to O'Hare (my first event was in Atlanta, three weeks after September 11th; I was not keen to get on a plane), got my luggage out of her trunk, hugged me, and said, "Lots of Kleenex" and "Surrender to the schmaltz." It was excellent advice. I carried plenty of travel packs of Kleenex on every event thereafter.

— And the 3-Day community I've come to know on Twitter, none of whom I've yet met in person, but who are amazing, kind, supportive women who enrich my life 140 characters at a time.

Tomorrow's forecast looks to be another picture-perfect day. Here's to all the walkers. May their legs carry them with ease for their final Chicago miles.

And just remember, kids: If you get tired, walk like a zombie.

It totally helps.

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Wednesday, August 07, 2013

In Case You Needed The Reminder Today ...

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Really, Jayson? Really? Part X ...

Despite its Roman numeral, this isn't really my 10th Jayson post. It's actually my 15th. The first one was written in March 2011. And I've been amused by Jayson's silliness ever since.

Let's consider, for a moment, this treasure. It's demure as chandeliers go, with a 25-inch spread. It's American, which is interesting for Jayson, as so many of its offerings are French. (But nothing this ugly would come out of France.) It sports a "painted finish as found" – translation: "Unfortunate." And you can have the privilege of hanging this small, ugly, domestic, fake-bamboo lighting fixture in your home for a mere $2,495.

You know what else you can buy for $2,500? A lot.

Vintage Faux Bamboo Chandelier – $2,495

Next up, how about a vintage paperback book? I don't have to tell you how hard these babies are to come by. You might think that today's used books are yesterday's new books, but in the mind of Jayson buyers, they are exceedingly rare. Which is why you should not be so stupid as to go to a garage sale or thrift store and spend a quarter or maybe a whole dollar on a used book, because who will that impress? No, no, bibliophile hipster, get your skinny-jeans-clad ass over to Jayson and shell out $22 on a "vintage" paperback book, pronto. Then you can spend the rest of the afternoon sipping absinthe and mocking others for their declassé used-book-buying ways, the chumps.

Vintage Paperback Book – $22

And while you're there, and if your credit card hasn't already melted, please do give serious consideration to this vintage lion skull. It's thoughtfully apartment-sized – one would think a lion skull would be much larger – and lest you wonder where Jayson might have gotten its homegoods mitts on such a treasure, it was "acquired from a zoo." I don't think we want to know what happened to the rest of the lion, do we? Also, the fact that it's American provides further reassurance that you won't be displaying the skull of Simba in your home.

Vintage Lion Skull – $2,295


Saturday, August 03, 2013

Good Times, August Edition ...

The August cookie installment for the angelo:HOME blog features Small Espresso Sablés with Whipped Cream and Limoncello. For a lovely, late-summer evening. Or any other time.