Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Some random thoughts:

1) OMG, Kim and Kanye got married over the weekend! Oh wait... I don't care.

2) The Yankees were in Chicago all last week -- I saw more people walking around dressed in Yankee shirts, jerseys, and hats than people wearing Cubs or Sox gear. It was great -- I almost felt like I was back in New York, except there's no place to get a giant pretzel around here...

3) Rick and I have discovered the best cappuccinos in the city (according to our subjective caffeine-fueled opinion) at Eataly. They also have a plethora of much-too-delicious-looking imported cookies, chocolates, pasta, bread, cheeses, and other foods and drinks. I'm amazed that I've been able to stop with a cappuccino purchase every time we've been there... but it's only a matter of time before some of that Italian chocolate comes home with me.

4) So I never did finish telling the tale of my temperamental teeth. And yes, this was partly because I took a blogging break -- but it's mostly because what should have been a simple, routine fix turned into a months-long saga. First, my crown fell off... when I went to the dentist to have it re-cemented, I found out it was fitting incorrectly and I needed a new one. So I went back to be fitted for a new one, and had a temporary one cemented on in the meantime. The new one arrived the week before we left for Hawaii -- I was so happy to know that I'd have a new crown and not have to worry about what I ate when I went on vacation. But when the dentist tried to affix the new crown, he discovered that, once again, it didn't fit correctly! So the temporary went back on, and I went to Hawaii and worried about everything I ate (but at least I was worried in Hawaii :)).

Sometime in March, I finally got the permanent crown... and for three weeks, everything was fine. And then one day I was eating a very non-crunchy, non-chewy, perfectly normal square of plain chocolate, and felt a horrible, familiar crunch -- it was the NEW crown, loose in my mouth. It fell off after only three weeks! So back to the dentist I went (where I was told that it's extremely rare for a new crown to fall off, even if you've been eating nuts and caramel and Tootsie Rolls and ice chips), and the crown was re-cemented onto my tooth. At this point, I decided that it might be a good idea to go ahead and get fitted for a night guard -- I've known for years that I grind my teeth at night (and I've always been suspicious that this might also contribute to my "teeth falling out" dreams). And after the brand-new crown fell off, I couldn't help but wonder if grinding my teeth contributed to that, as well. So once again, I went back to the dentist, and had the impressions taken for the night guard. It was ready to be picked up about three weeks ago, so I went for what was supposed to be a five -minute appointment. But guess what? When the dentist snapped the guard over my teeth, IT DIDN'T FIT CORRECTLY. That seems to have been the theme of my dentist visits this year...

So today I'm going back for what I hope (I really, really HOPE) will be the last time for a while, to pick up my (refitted) night guard. I kind of feel like I should just automatically have an appointment set up at the dentist's office every three or four weeks, since that's about how often I've been going this year. I mean, it's practically time for me to go back for a cleaning... but I think I'll hold off for a while.

5) We're supposed to get thunderstorms in Chicago today, but I'm hoping they won't show up until after I've walked to and from the dentist. Right now, it is deceptively sunny and warm, and appears to be a perfect late-spring day. But I have this bad feeling that as soon as I'm ready to go outside, the clouds will converge over downtown and the threat of imminent lightning strikes will loom large. My only comfort is knowing that I can see both the Sears Tower and the Hancock Building from this location, so any lightning worth its salt will know that the best way to unleash its fury is to attack one of those buildings (instead of some random person running towards a dentist's office).

6) That's it for today. I'm off to eat my usual lunch of nuts, caramel, Tootsie Rolls and ice chips. ;) Have a great week, everyone!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Carb loading...

Bananas have never been my favorite fruit. That honor (is it an honor to be someone's favorite fruit??) belongs to the cherry. I have great memories of picking cherries off the tree behind my grandparents' house... my grandmother would make stewed cherries and we'd eat them for breakfast, or over vanilla ice cream... and cherry pies were always on the summer menu. Nowadays, I love frozen cherries in smoothies... and cherries combined with chocolate? Well, that's just deliciousness on top of perfection...

But bananas? Eh... I mean, it's not that I outright HATE bananas (although I do hate anything with banana flavor, like candy or gum). I'll eat one if I'm really hungry and there's nothing else around... and I keep sliced bananas in the freezer along with my frozen cherries for the aforementioned smoothies. (But don't be fooled by the concept of "banana soft serve" that's been touted all over the internet as a healthy substitute for ice cream. It's nothing like soft serve ice cream -- what it IS like is pureed frozen bananas. If you love bananas, go for it. But if you love soft serve ICE CREAM, just go to Dairy Queen... because pureed frozen bananas are really disappointing if you're craving ice cream.)

But something magical happens if you combine bananas with butter, sugar, eggs and flour. (Of course, "butter, sugar, eggs and flour" is pretty much the template for the creation of all KINDS of carby magic.) I may have never been a fan of bananas, but I love banana bread. Especially the banana bread recipe my mom always made when I was growing up. I would sneak a slice before bed, and then look forward to another slice for breakfast the next morning...

And it took me YEARS of making this recipe myself before I finally got the idea to add chocolate chips (seriously, what took me so long??), which makes it less of a breakfast bread and more of a dessert... although you could still eat it for breakfast, if you want. Not that I'VE ever done that. ;)

Since this stuff is so good, I don't make it very often... a loaf of banana bread lasts about a day and a half around here. But when Rick came home from work the other day and told me that a colleague had brought in some banana bread that his wife had baked, I immediately responded with, "challenge accepted!" (Never mind the fact that no challenge was actually issued...) So about 15 percent of this loaf stayed here in my house... the other 85 percent went to the office with Rick. Good thing, because it has been requested that I bake cupcakes for Eric's birthday this weekend (challenge accepted!), and I wouldn't want to exceed my chocolate quota for the week...

Mom's Banana Bread (plus chocolate chips!)
1/3 cup softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 and 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
chocolate chips (I never really measure my chocolate chips -- I use the "add until it looks like there's enough chocolate" method. But I'd guess about half a cup?)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease a loaf pan with butter.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together, then add eggs and mix well. In a smaller bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, then alternate adding the dry ingredients and the mashed banana to the butter/sugar/egg mixture. Fold in chocolate chips until there's no doubt that the healthiness of the banana is cancelled out by the decadence of the chocolate. Add the whole beautiful mixture to the loaf pan, and bake for about 40 to 45 minutes. (Tip: definitely check for doneness with a toothpick -- this bread has a tendency to LOOK done before it IS done.)

Whether you eat it for breakfast or not is up to you...


Monday, May 19, 2014

The lost Hawaii pictures...

Okay, they weren't REALLY lost. I just never posted any after our trip this past winter. So without further ado:

We stayed at the Hyatt on Kauai. This was the second time we've stayed at this hotel -- highly recommended! This is some of the landscaping at the hotel, looking back towards the lobby...

And facing the other way towards the ocean.

We took a boat tour one day to go whale watching. The whales were being quite coy -- we mostly just saw water from their blow holes. But we DID see this pod of spinner dolphins.

Whitest girl in Hawaii searching for whales... and sunscreen...

Waimea Canyon -- one of the coolest places on the island. It was a little rainy and cloudy at the very top, but we still saw some amazing views like this one.

One of the ubiquitous Kauai chickens. Even though these guys are all over the island, according to locals they're not good for eating -- apparently they're very tough and stringy, on account of their hard knock lives on the streets...

Rick's sister Donna and her husband Dean were celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary when we were in Hawaii, so Dean organized a surprise vow renewal on the beach. (All those rocks around them were in the shape of a heart. :))

 Nearing sunset...

The whole group on our last night -- dad, mom, me, Rick, Rick's mom, Aunt Carol, Donna and Dean. We may have been smiling, but we were all crying on the inside because he had to leave the next day. ;) But I was so grateful to have the chance to travel to an amazing place with some pretty awesome people! :)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Well, fancy meeting YOU here...

Hey everyone! Remember me?

I know, I know... you thought I'd dropped off the face of the blogging world, into the vacuum of the abyss... like George Clooney and Sandra Bullock in "Gravity." (Did you guys see Gravity? When I first saw it, I thought it was a decent movie... but then I started thinking more about the science behind the entire scenario, and I liked it less and less the more I thought about it. Perhaps it's one of those movies you're not supposed to THINK about too much... like the Transformers franchise or superhero movies or pretty much anything James Cameron has ever directed...)

But where was I? Oh yes... my neglected blog. I don't know if it was our long, cold, cloudy winter (so many clouds... so much cold... so... long...) -- or if I was just stuck in a particularly tenacious bout of writer's block -- but whatever the reason, I couldn't seem to find the motivation to sit down and write anything for my little corner of cyberspace.

And then one day I started thinking that perhaps, maybe, I just needed to start OVER. Well, not literally... I mean, my old blog still exists. I love that old blog... in fact, I love it so much that I didn't even choose a new name for this one. Because let's face it -- I will probably never be one of those people who has a focused, single-topic kind of blog. Random tangents are my specialty. (Please refer to the above "Gravity" tangent.)

But I DID feel like I needed a bit of a new start, just to jostle my brain back into blogging mode. I'm also hoping to post a bit more often about cooking and baking, and maybe a little more about working out... with, hopefully, the occasional travel musing when I have a chance to get away. Of course, I'm sure my usual random thoughts will occupy more than their fair share of space in this blog...

I'm hoping that this newness -- coupled with the fact that warmer weather and sunshine have FINALLY arrived in Chicago (I seem to be a bit solar-powered) -- will give me the incentive I need to launch myself back into the blogging world. Welcome to the new space -- if I don't post again soon, someone yell at me, okay? :)