Thursday, July 28, 2011


Yesterday, my day started with a Sex and City style brunch date at Webster Street Cafe with three of my closest friends. Over a big cup of coffee and scrumptious brioche french toast, I caught up on the latest happenings in my friend's lives. Our conversation mingled from one topic to the next, and was continuously met with uproarious laughter. Laughter that jostled from my diaphram out of my mouth reverberating throughout my entire body. There are few moments better in life than hanging out with old friends, where few things are explained, inside jokes are rapidly recalled and the newest revelations in ones life are easily shared.

The owner of the Cafe seemed to enjoy our energy; treating us to a free parfait featuring his personal granola recipe. The granola was delicious! Roasted pumpkin seeds and flaxseed were stand out ingredients. Later, we graciously thanked him for the parfait and asked if he sold the granola in packages in which we could buy. He told us he sold the granola with the parfait, but not in individual containers. Minutes later he returned to our table with complimentary containers of the granola to take home. Immensely impressed, we decided another brunch date at this Cafe was definitely in order.

Despite my yearning to hold onto the energy of this joyous gathering, it was time to continue on with the day and part ways. Although a bit sad to leave my friends, my upcoming "mani-pedi" session was bound to leave me in good spirits.

As I sat in the leather massage chair, I let the full weight of my body relax into the soft cushions. My feet sang as I immersed them into the warm pool of water below, brushing them against whirling jet streams. For an hour I would be relieved of all duties of serving others. My sole responsibility was to rest, relax and enjoy. Although I am blessed with amazing people in my life as well as with two flexible part time jobs I could never complain about, it is amazing when you find time to put the phone on silent, relax with a magazine and let others do the work. 

The nail technician scrubbed and rubbed my feet. Peeling away dead layers of skin. Out of control cuticles were restored, and nails were cut and sanded to a a uniform shape. She did the same with my finger nails. With dead skin removed, nails trimmed and a pale pink princess-like polish applied; I felt light, pretty, and happy. By indulging in an hour of pampering, a weeks worth of annoyances, worries, and stresses faded into the background. As I let the feeling of tranquility run over me, I wondered why I had been the least bit stressed in the first place. 

My tranquil state moved me into the rest of my day seamlessly, helping me later maneuver gracefully through a vigorous yoga class. Teacher, Wade Gotwals of Nature Yoga, led the class through creative sequences, long holds, and lots of hands on adjustments. As I left class I felt myself standing taller, as if three inches were added to my spine. I felt brighter too, like a freshly polished penny.

Days of pampering like this one are not a normal part of my schedule. They are the exception, not the rule.  But I believe being pampered, at least every once in a while, is almost like pushing the reset button. It enables me to clear away mental clutter, envision goals more clearly, bring back a sense a calm to my busy schedule, and be increasingly present to those around me. I am immensely thankful for great friends, generous cafe owners, meticulous nail technicians and experienced yoga teachers. Thank you for making me feel pampered.

I would love to hear how you've been pampering yourself this summer! Share comments below.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Travelin' Tuesdays - Two

June 2011, Vernazza, Italy.
Photo Credit: Hayley Leventhal

My bff Hayley traveled Europe for three weeks this past June. Nostalgic for her time studying abroad, she decided to travel through Italy first. The photo above was taken the morning after she arrived in Corniglia and took a ninety minute hike to a neighboring town of Vernazza. Hayley notes, "the view was breathtaking". 

 Continue to join Underlined and Bold every Tuesday for inspirational travel content. Tuesday will be set aside each week to inspire us all to get out of our comfort zones, plan our next adventure and be open to whatever we find along the way. If you would like to see how "Travelin' Tuesdays" got its start on Underlined and Bold click here.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Vineyard in Illinois?

Riding shotgun, I kept our coupons safe in my lap.

In the beginning of July, my roommates and I ventured out into late Friday afternoon Chicago traffic to use some Livingsocial coupons we had purchased. Now, I am aware I have made fun of Livingsocial in the past, but when this deal arrived in my inbox one April morning, my curiosity got the best of me. The coupon was for Valentino Vineyards and Winery in Long Grove, Illinois.

 "A vineyard in Illinois?" I had questioned.  I quickly learned my roommate Jun was also curious about the vineyard. We discussed the deal, and quickly decided to both purchase two coupons. One for ourselves, and another for our two other roommates in honor of their April birthdays. 

Fast forward to July 8th; Rupal, Jun and I inched along for an hour and a half in rush hour traffic, impatiently waiting to see if this vineyard was the real deal.

Rupal was our designated driver for the evening. Her mad driving skills, transported us safely to and from the "burbs" .

Jun held down the back seat, double checking her phone to make sure Rupal's GPS was taking us in the right direction. If you're an avid GPS user, you may have experienced the device saying "you are here," causing you to furrow your brow as you find yourself surrounded by a cornfield instead of your intended destination.

When we finally arrived, this was the house that greeted us. If I had a panoramic camera, you would be able to see the rows of grapevines surrounding the property. But since I do not have such a camera, use your imagination for the moment.

Roomie Photo!!
(from left to right)
 Amalia, Rupal, Me & Jun

After parking the car, we trekked up the dirt pathway, and made our way into the house to redeem our coupons and await further instructions. We were also reunited with our roommate Amalia!

Eventually we were led outside by Rudolph Valentino DiTommaso, the man featured in the photo above wearing the sunny yellow shirt and starch white cowboy hat. As the owner of the vineyard, he shared with us the history of the property and the different types of grapes he grew to make his wine. Although he touched upon several interesting facts, he was quite the "Chatty Cathy". So I eventually turned my attention to snapping photos of the grapes.

My roommate Amalia among the grapes, taking in sunshine and knowledge about wine.

The lovely grapes!!

And more grapes!

And more!

After forty-five minutes, we were led back inside so we could finally taste some of the wine that those grapes worked to produce. The wines tended to have very bold flavors. In effect their pairings, as noted by Rudolph himself, were often big juicy steaks. As the resident vegetarian, I don't think I was Valentino's intended audience, but I enjoyed the tasting nonetheless.

As the wine tasting came to an end, my roommates and I came to a couple conclusions. We collective agreed that there wasn't enough tasting and there was too much telling about the greatness of Valentino wines. We say, let the wines speak for themselves. We also felt that the wine tasting should have come with cheese and crackers, so we could cleanse our pallets between wines. 

Despite our critiques, I enjoyed our adventure. Although Valentino's in no Napa Valley, California, it was fascinating to witness a man following his passion and succeeding, despite being told that the soil and climate of the area were not ideal for growing grapes to produce wine. Additionally, it's not everyday that one gets to prove the existence of a vineyard in a state mostly known for urban sprawl, cornfields, a giant polluting city, and ridiculously corrupt politicians

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Travelin' Tuesdays - One

Hayley and travel partner Avery, relaxing in the park next to the Eifflel Tower.
Hayley notes, "The tower may be a little cliche, but it truly is beautiful in person".

"Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living-- Miriam Beard

Last night I went out to dinner with my bff Hayley, who just happened to be in town visiting her sister. Sitting on the back patio of Handlebar, we exchanged stories concerning the latest happenings in our lives. Hayley's contribution to the conversation mostly revolved around her recent three week trip to western Europe. The length of her trip enabled her to visit numerous countries. As she talked, she recounted memories of the beautiful scenery, helpful people and delicious food she encountered. Needless to say I was a bit jealous!

Previous to this conversation, I had been thinking a lot about traveling. In the last six years traveling has been an important part of my life. Traveling has opened my eyes to the variety of ways one can live out their life on this fascinating diverse planet. It has challenged the cultural norms I had come to accept as truth, and broadened my perspective to the fact that there isn't one way of doing things, only countless possibilities.  It has also reminded me that no matter where I live, my personal baggage will follow. Just because I've changed the scenery, doesn't mean I'll become a completely different person. 

As I continue to explore who I am and how I would like to live out my short life on this planet, I think traveling has to continue to be apart of that journey. It's an important part of  my growth and development as an adult, and continuing to get outside of my comfort zone. 

Therefore, I'm officially making Tuesdays "Travelin' Tuesdays" on Underlined and Bold. Each Tuesday I will blog about something travel related. Content will include reflections and photos of my own travel experiences, photos and reflections of my friend's and family's travel experiences, my personal future travel plans, notable websites, blogs and articles that provide useful tips and inspire my inner traveler. If you have something worthwhile to contribute to "Travelin' Tuesdays" please e-mail me at I would love to feature your thoughts and photos!

Hope everyone is having a great week thus far!


*Note: A big thanks to Hayley Leventhal for inspiring the content of this post! 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

West Fest Follow Up...

Yesterday my blog post entitled "West Fest," briefly made reference to my childhood experiences in the theatre arts. Upon further reflection, I realized a visual aid would be helpful.

For your viewing pleasure I posted two photos below that provide a small glimpse into my brief stint as a thespian. Enjoy!
I'm in the center  playing Queen of Hearts/Nikki
Production: Alice in Wonderland  (set in modern day)

I'm in the center dressed as a toy soldier.
Production: Babes in Toyland

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

West Fest!

Summertime in Chicago is officially in full swing! Farmer's Markets are fraught with fresh produce, tan lines are increasingly growing bolder and street festivals are taking over even the busiest of intersections. On Sunday, after a busy brunch shift, I put on a flirty dress, strappy sandals and sunglasses, and headed down the street to West Fest.  

Those Darlins @ West Fest!!

One of the main reasons I attended West Fest this year was to see Those Darlins perform. I was going to see them live back in April when they opened for Black Joe Lewis & the HoneyBears at the Double Door, but my late arrival made me miss their act. Despite being bummed about missing some fabulous ladies rock out that night, I spotted Rahm Emmanual at that show, so that kind of made up for it.

 Thus, since the beginning of April I've been itching to catch a Those Darlins performance. And I am proud to report that finally scratching that itch on Sunday was extremely satisfying. The ladies of Those Darlins totally commanded the stage, staying true to the sound you can find on their latest album Screws Get Loose

After they left the stage I definitely had some girl envy. Oh how I wish I could be bad ass and sexy with a guitar and microphone. As an adult I'm extremely realistic. It only takes a split second to conjure up childhood memories to know why a career in music will never be in the cards.

 Growing up I did a lot of musical theatre. Despite having stage presence, I couldn't sing my way out of a paper bag. Consequently, I would be cast in roles with a lot of dancing and/or speaking, but with the least amount of singing. Additionally, in fifth grade I joined the school band. Initially I played trumpet. After a couple of months, my teacher switched me to trombone because she thought it would be easier for me to grasp. It was quickly evident that the trumpet hadn't been the problem. I was the problem. There was not one musically inclined bone in my body. Within a few weeks of making the switch, I packed up my trombone and left my dreams of being a part of the fifth grade band horn section behind. 

Don't worry U&B readers, I've recovered since those rough times of crushed childhood dreams of musical stardom. My rightful place is in the audience when music is involved, and that is a-okay with me. 

Anyways, below are a few more images from my West Fest evening. Enjoy!

These people had the best view of the show for sure!

Sharing a hot summer evening with amazing people is always a bonus!
(from left to right) Rachel, Barb, Josh, & Chris.
Josh held his drink in his army cargo shorts. Genius! I was little
 envious of him at this moment for sure.

The lovely ladies of the evening.
Me! (left), Rachel (middle), Barb (right)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

U&B Gets a Makeover!

Having fun since 1987.

Yesterday I spent some time giving Underlined and Bold a makeover! I had a great time using U&B as a a creative outlet, adding photos and moving "gadgets" around. I would love some feedback concerning the changes, so please leave comments.  Additionally, I will probably continue to make small changes to U&B throughout the summer. Therefore, if you know of any fun gadgets I should add or design changes you would make, I would love to get those suggestions as well. 

Hope everyone is having a wonderful relaxing weekend.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Never Say Never:

Completing the Ride Aid Cleveland Half Marathon
Photo of Chris and I right after we finished our races.
Chris finished the full marathon and I finished the half.

At age eighteen I volunteered at the 23 mile mark of the 2005 Chicago Marathon. I had never watched a marathon before, and my attendance had little to do with running. To me, running was a foreign sport. It was a sport in which its participants had a few screws loose and a genetic predisposition for moving ones legs for an ungodly amount of time and/or at an ungodly pace.

Despite my ignorant attitude, I was unexpectedly moved emotionally by watching runners trot past me for hours during the marathon. Some runners looked great waving their hands in the air as we cheered them on. Other runners limped in pain and moved slowly. Some were filled with joy as our water station came into view, quickly grabbing a cup from my hand and splashing me a bit as they rushed onward to finish the race. I observed faces expressing determination, joy, contemplation, exhaustion and distress. T-shirts like "in memory of my dad," would whizz past me, leaving me a bit choked up. I began to see this wasn't just about running for the sake of running.

About a year and half later, I found myself watching another race. This time I was in Indianapolis watching several of my friends complete the 500 Festival Mini Marathon. It was a surreal experience to see people I actually knew run 13.1 miles. At the time, I was living with most of my friends who had completed that race. Living with them, I witnessed their efforts to follow meticulous training schedules filled with notes about sprints, cross-training and distances. I was inspired by their dedication and commitment, but a world that involved running still seemed incredibly foreign to me. I had walked my first official 5k about six month prior to Indianapolis, but I was still pretty adamant that running and me would never have a close association.

Upon our return from Indianapolis, some of my friends began prodding me about running. Curious, I got on some treadmills at our fitness center, but the whole process felt painful. I reported back to my friends that running was dreadful and complained about aches I felt in my flat feet. I thought this report fraught with complaints would squash their prodding. I was wrong. My friend Emily told me kindly but very forcefully that I needed to buy running shoes.

At first I was angry at Emily's response. She wasn't allowing me an easy out (as the truth is rarely easy). If I didn't run, it was because I chose that path, not because I wasn't physically able. For a while, I tried using the hefty price tag of good running shoes, which can be around $120, as an excuse. Why was I going to throw my precious money towards a material good that I wasn't even sure I was going to put to use?

Weeks later I was still tossing Emily's rebuttal around in my head. I brought my concerns about investing in a good pair of sneaks to friend and long time runner Emma. She confirmed my need for running shoes and suggested I be fitted in a specialty store. She offered to come with me to make my first purchase.

Four months later I ran my first 5K, the Aids Run & Walk Chicago, in my well broken in high stability New Balance 850 shoes. I was proud of myself for completing the race, but still couldn't figure out why so many people were hyped about running. I continued to put my shoes to use at the gym or occasionally outside, but often found myself gravitating toward group fitness classes and yoga. Gradually, over the course of four years I did begin to run further. I could run five to seven miles comfortably, but never kept up a consistent schedule. Every once in a while I would run to release stress and put cardio into my workout routine.

Shortly after my 24th birthday, I found someone else prodding me about running. My boyfriend was planning to run the full Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon in May. Cleveland is my hometown, where my parents still reside. He thought it might be fun for me to run the half marathon that would be occurring simultaneously as the full marathon. Strangely, it didn't take me long to commit to the idea. I put together a training schedule and at the beginning of March began to pound the pavement.

Eleven weeks of training, quickly passed. At 6:50AM on Sunday, May 15th, I stood staring at the start line. As I waited with thousands of other runners, my thoughts began to rush around in my head. What if I don't  finish? What if I get hurt? Did I train well enough? My IT band seems really tight right now.

But as I crossed the start line with "Dynamite Wall" by Hayden playing on my I POD, all the thoughts melted away. I relaxed and took a deep breath and began to recognize the beauty that surrounded me; a sea of bodies running in the same direction like a huge school of fish diving into the deep waters of the vast ocean.

Mile after mile I ran. I ran with an even stride enjoying my playlist and giving high-fives to children watching from the sidewalks. I ran admiring the different Cleveland neighborhoods the race took us through, while using my watch as a guide post for proper pacing. I ran, shouting "mile 9," at the mile marker in a voice that projected nothing but joy. And I ran, taking cups at several water stations, thanking volunteers for coming out on a misty gray day in Cleveland.

At mile 12, I screamed and squirmed with joy. The finish line had yet to come into view, but the newest thing I had laid my eyes on was almost as exciting. It was my parents! I think I put them in a state of shock as I passed them. I'm pretty sure they were expecting to see me sluggish and in pain at mile 12. Instead they got this little fire ball of energy running past them, arms waving in the air frantically as if I was at the concert of my favorite band playing my favorite song.

The last mile of the race was mostly on a decline, moving me easily into a dead sprint. I put aside all my strategy concerning pacing, and repeated a mantra in my head I used during training, "don't leave anything out here". I wanted to finish the race knowing I gave it my best, using all the energy I could muster. Eventually my feet carried me across the finish line at 2hours 3minutes and 39seconds, and proceeded to receive my first medal for running.

My completion of the half marathon is not an original story. It's something many people have done and will continue to do into the future across the globe. Therefore, my completion really isn't anything spectacular. What is spectacular is that I changed my mind. It wasn't over night or even over the course of a few weeks. My mind was changed over the course of years. Years of people gently inviting me to try something new that would positively impact my life. These people weren't just inviting me to run; they were inviting me to get out my comfort zone. They were inviting me to challenge myself and believe in myself; to never say never.

This essay is dedicated to all the runners in my life! An extra special thanks to those who prodded me with love along the way -- Emma Pellegrino, Kristen Pellegrino, Emily Pease, Alex Murphy, Betsy Schluge, Anne Rooney, Brittany Hurst, Julianne Lenehan, Alaska JVs '09 - '10, Mrs. Pease, Mrs. Hurst and Chris Coons.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies!!

There are few things better than receiving a surprise sweet treat during my day. So the other day I decided to surprise people I would see throughout my day with chocolate chip cookies. They were definitely not as good as my best friend Hayley's chocolate chip cookies (she is the queen of that art form), but I think these soft bite size treats put a few smiles on people's faces.

What have you been busy baking recently?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

My First White Sox Game!

White Sox vs. Nationals @ Cominsky Park.

Last Sunday I had a relaxing afternoon watching my first White Sox game at Comisky Park. It was a perfect day. The sun was shining while a slight breeze kept the temperature cool. I enjoyed greasy french fries and a cold MGD while my boyfriend Chris ate a hot dog. Additionally, Chris is quite the baseball enthusiast -- so he was quick to fill in the gaps in my baseball knowledge. Facts I learned included:

 1. Each team has retired jersey numbers, honoring the legacy of past players. Forty-two is the only number  retired for all MLB teams because it honors the legacy of Jackie Robinson.

Chris and I in front of Cominsky!
2. Base coaches are instrumental to the proper decision making of  base runners.  The third base coach is particularly crucial due to the fact that the second base runner has his back to the outfield. Therefore, the third base coach can instruct the second base runner without the runner turning around to assess the location of the ball. 

3. One of the most disappointing newly signed players on the White Sox is Adam Dunn. Dunn's batting average is currently .169. He struck out every time he was at bat on Sunday. Needless to say, the crowd was booing.

4. The American League has a "Designated Hitter," a person whose job is to solely hit and run bases. The pitcher, who tends to be one of the worst hitters on the team does not hit in the AL. The National League does not have a DH, leaving the pitcher in the hitting lineup. To my understanding, this fact greatly changes the dynamics and strategy of the game.

Despite the Sox losing against the Washington Nationals, I had an amazing time. I definitely picture myself taking the bus back down to Bridgeport to have another lazy afternoon at the Park!

A BIG thank you to Morgan for supplying Chris with two tickets!  And a BIG thank you to Chris for inviting me along. Happy Birthday babe!!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Windy City Soul Club!

Happy Friday Everyone!

Hanging out, outside the Empty Bottle after the event. My new friend Davis
definitely got some air time in this photo =)

Last Friday I walked north on Western Avenue to spend my evening at the Empty Bottle. The Bottle was hosting their monthly event, Windy City Soul Club -- also known as "Chicago's rare soul dance party".  I had never attended this event in its two and half year running, so I didn't know exactly what to expect. All I knew is it would be a night filled with dancing.

Julian (left) Anne (middle) Me! (right)
Around 10:30pm I sipped on my Red Stripe, chatting with friends as the venue slowly began to swell with people. I caught up on the latest happenings in people's lives; a new girlfriend, a move to a new apartment, hopes of living in Phoenix again, refined job searches, graduate school, marathon training, and engagements.  Distracted by the news of my friends, over the course of an hour the music grew louder and the dance floor transformed into a sea of wild waves in an epic storm. Bodies were moving, clothes damp with perspiration. This was my cue. It was time to dance.

The music was intoxicating. The DJs worked their tables, as I swayed my hips and waved my arms through the increasingly warm air. I felt as if I had leaped into a time machine of another era.

When the evening finally came to a close, I walked south towards my apartment on Western Ave. As the cool night air fell over my skin, I reflected upon my new found appreciation for dance parties and "rare soul" music. Mostly my inner dialogue consisted of contemplating why I hadn't attended Windy City Soul Club earlier!

Arriving home a few minutes later, I engaged in my nightly rituals -- brushing teeth, washing my make up off and climbing into bed with cozy PJ's. As I laid in bed staring at the ceiling, I continued to bask in the glow and energy felt when one has an evening well spent.

Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday weekend! And please feel free to leave comments about the amazing things your experiencing this summer in Chicago. I'd love to know about other great things happening in the city.  =)
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