Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Night my Belly was Really Happy!

Kitchen Prayer
May this kitchen be so filled with peace
that all who eat food prepared here receive peace.
May this kitchen be so filled with happiness
that all who eat food prepared here receive happiness.
May this kitchen be so filled with good will
that working here is a joy.
Bless this kitchen.
Bless all who work here.
Bless the food that is prepared here.
May this kitchen and the work done here be a blessing to all
who live.
Written by: Jared Robins
from May All Be Fed : A Diet for a New World


This past weekend there was a small feast in my apartment. After a long day at work, to my delight I found my roommates Rupal and Jun busy cutting veggies and stirring sauces. My mouth watered as I smelled the aroma of savory spices filling the room. Rupal's close friend Rashmi also joined in on the cooking adventures, helping to produce a wonderful three course meal.

A colorful display of veggies sauteed with a secret sauce, a recipe created by Rashmi's mother, was poured over fried tilapia and white rice for course number one. The mild taste of the rice and tilapia was the perfect match for the spicy sauce.
A cheesy layered Eggplant Parmesan casserole graced the table for course number two. The layers included a light savory red sauce, green peppers, mushrooms, mozzarela cheese and fried eggplant. 

My belly ached as we reached course number three. Despite my belly's rumbles, indicating that I should stop stuffing my face, I reached for dessert. Dessert wasn't simple, as we had an array of choices sitting upon our counter top. Choices included mango smoothies, chocolate cake paired with vanilla ice cream, and homemade tiramisu (pictured below). I treated myself to all three!

Although I did not contribute to the evening's cooking efforts, I honored our three wonderful chefs by heading up the clean up crew. Cleaning was a small price to pay for such a beautiful night of delicious indulgence!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

In need of Handyman Services? Look no further...

 Walking through the Pilsen neighborhood the other day, I came across this grocery cart. Locked to a bike rack with a heavy chain link and pad lock, I couldn't help but wonder who was the owner. In the day of  internet, television and fancy billboard advertisements does a simple sign like this bring a person business? 

If business is booming, this sign is genius as it is very cost effective. If business is slow, I admire the effort and hope my blog entry will bring about new revenue.

Despite the profit margins of this business venture, this sign is awesome for two reasons:
1. Enthusiasm! Exclamation points are used liberally, showing this individual is very excited about their work.
2. There is a $ placed in the 's' of the word discount at the bottom of the sign. Bonus points for creativity!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dead Man Walking & the end of Capital Punishment in Illinois

"Forgiveness is never going to be easy. Each day it must be prayed for and struggled for and won."

Above is one of my favorite quotes from the book, Dead Man Walking. I read Dead Man Walking after meeting the spunky charismatic nun and author, Sister Helen Prejean. I met Prejean in 2008 during her visit to DePaul University to support students working on Anti-Death Penalty legislation for the the state of Illinois. Listening to her speak about innocent men put to death, the disproportionate application of the penalty on poor and minority people, and its overall financial drain on tax payer money was heartbreaking.

A couple months later, I found myself heartbroken all over again as I finally read Dead Man Walking. The book chronicles Prejean's journey of becoming the spiritual advisor of two death row inmates; Patrick Sonnier and Robert Willie. Additionally, it sheds light on social inequalities and crime Prejean observes while living in the housing projects of New Orleans. Despite the book being repetitive at times, I found it engaging. Her ability to intertwine well researched statistics and information with her spiritual beliefs rooted in biblical text is unprecedented.

Three years later I share my influential encounter with Prejean and her book because of Governor Pat Quinn's decision to abolish capital punishment in the state of Illinois earlier in March. I am truly overjoyed that Illinois is now the 16th state in the union to rid itself of the death penalty!

As the signing of the bill moves out of the headlines, I long for Gov. Quinn's decision to influence other states. Richard Dieter of Washington's Death Penalty Information Center is quoted in a Huffington Post article stating that Illinois may have the power to influence other states "...because it was a state that used it, reconsidered it and now rejected it".

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Shamrock Shake!

Ninety-nine percent of my life, I avoid consuming fast food. On St. Patrick's Day, I used the holiday as an excuse to indulge by sharing a McDonald's Shamrock Shake. Despite my initial apprehension, this artificial minty flavored treat was a fun addition to my day of green. A new St. Patrick's Day tradition has definitely been formed!

If you're a big fan of the Shamrock Shake or are interested in learning more about it, check out the links below. Enjoy!!

Locate where shakes are being sold with this website. The McDonald's on the corner of Chicago Avenue and State St. in downtown Chicago supplied my shake.

Join in on the general enthusiasm for the drink with this article.

Looking for nutritional information? Click the link below.

Find Shamrock Shake historical information with this article from Irish Central. Check out the great 80s commercial at the end of the article!!!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Lesson in Chicago History: Schaller's Pump

Open for over 125 years, "Schaller's Pump is Chicago's oldest continuously running tavern," as noted by the Chicago Bar Project. Located in the Bridgeport neighborhood, Schaller's Pump provides a small town blue collar feel without leaving the city limits. Usually a White Sox fans hot spot, my off season visit still provided a pleasurable experience. I enjoyed quiet conversation over drinks while catching an episode of Wheel of Fortune

If you're more interested in its historical elements, check out the door on the south side wall. Supposedly there is a peep hole in the door from the days of prohibition when Schaller's operated as a speakeasy.

With my first official visit to Schaller's behind me, I'm excited to patronize the tavern again among Chicago's boisterous White Sox fans. Hopefully my return trip is in conjunction with my first baseball game at Comiskey Park!  

Friday, March 11, 2011

Top 5 Weekend Highlights

Before moving onto another busy Chicago weekend, below are some highlights from last weekend. Enjoy!

1. Rod Stewart impersonator.
Photo courtesy of Sarah Jane Rhee
Attendance at PROMME, a fundraiser for 826CHI provided me the privileged of seeing an awesome Rod Stewart impersonator. He opened with "Maggie May," winning my heart from his first step on stage. On a more serious note, if you're looking for a great volunteer or monetary donation opportunity, 826CHI is a worthy non-profit. The organization works to improve the writing skills of children 6-18 years old throughout the city of Chicago. Don't live in Chicago? Check out the 826 National and see if there is a site closer to your home!

2. A visit from my parents: Bob & Judy!
My parents came in for the weekend for both pleasure and business. We mostly spent time eating, shopping, and going to the theatre. Thank you mom and dad for the lovely weekend!!

3. Watching my dad eat an entire fish.
Friday evening my parents and I headed to Carnivale for dinner. My dad ordered one of the specials - an entire fried Red Snapper. Holy moly! It was brought to the table with the eye balls and everything. When I lived in Alaska, I handled plenty of whole fish, so that was nothing new. What was new was watching my dad attack the thing with a vengeance. I am proud to say he did a beautiful job tearing out the spine (bringing all the bones with it) in one foul swoop. Way to go dad!

4. A trip to the theatre.
I'm happy to say I was able to catch a performance of Working, as it was the last weekend it was playing in Chicago. The show is described as "the PERFECT MUSICAL for everyone who has ever worked a day in their lives". This description is beyond accurate! The musical is based on award-winning author Studs Terkel's  book Working. I hope to read the book in the near future!

Photo Courtesy of
5. A 4 mile Saturday run            
Saturday was a dreary day in Chicago. Despite the weather, I set out on a nice early morning run. Using, I formulated a new route and set out in my cold weather gear.  The first mile I felt my body warming up. My strides were slow and long, as my feet moved evenly across the pavement.  Mile two moved me into the blissed out state know as "runner's high". My "runner's high" carried me seamlessly through the remainder of my run.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Coloring Outside the Lines: a reflection on perfection

"It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful," is the slogan of one of my favorite interior design blogs, Nesting Place.  I love this slogan. It's simple, yet incredibly truthful. I also find the slogan challenging. Whether I'm writing, in yoga class, or meeting a client for work, I often cling to the idea of being "perfect" unconsciously.

Occasionally when I write, I experience pangs of anxiety as I yearn to articulate my thoughts in a perfectly accessible and organized manner. During yoga class, I can get caught up in my thoughts. I'll focus on trying to do a pose "well" instead of listening to my body and moving through my breath. Meeting a client for work for the first time, I'll stress about making a good impression. I'll worry about my attire, whether I'm asking the right questions, and how their children are responding to me.

This anxiety and worry is rooted in the idea that humans can achieve perfection, and when it is achieved we are our best selves. This is contrary to experience.  Cyndi Crawford's mole is the blemish that made her famous. Bob Dylan's voice is rough, but his music has made him one of the most influential cultural icons of the twentieth century. A Canon engineer mistakenly placed a hot iron on top of his ink pen, effectively helping to produce the first ink jet printer.

Thus, it's often the quirky out of the ordinary aspects of life that are the most fruitful. When seeking the road of "perfection," we are limiting ourselves. We are looking at a singular road to get from point A to point B. If a singular road existed, life would ultimately be boring. The alternative to perfection then is creativity, originality, and ingenuity. When we work toward creativity and originality, our feeling of freedom can be expanded.  Perfection gives us strict guidelines. Creativity allows us to color outside the lines.

It's time to truly color outside the lines boldly and brightly. It's time to celebrate our inherent creativity that may not be perfect, but is certainly beautiful.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Education at its finest....

 Riding the bus in Chicago can be an entertaining experience. Last week I came across this poster for East-West University while on bus 151. 
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