Monthly Archives: February 2013

#WeekofIndulgence: The Little Goat Diner

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Last night, as part of the Week of Indulgence, we took a little trip to the Chicago’s West Loop and ate at the Little Goat Diner. Naoto loves diners, and we’ve both heard really good things about Chef Stephanie Izard’s other restaurant, The Girl & the Goat, so once I heard that the Little Goat was opening, it’s been on my radar as a “must try” place. We invited our neighbor-friend, Karen, who took one look at the menu and decided she was “in” for the Week of Indulgence adventure.

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When I eat at a diner, I am often overwhelmed by the choices…sweet breakfast like pancakes or waffles? Savory breakfast like an omelette? Lunch plate or lunch sandwich? I found the well-edited (but still quite plentiful!) choices on the Little Goat menu to be as overwhelming as the twenty page corner diner menus. So many choices, and each one as intriguing as the next! I wanted a little bit of everything, plus I already knew I was going to have the Blood Orange Meringue Pie!

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I also knew I wanted a latte–the Little Goat serves Stumptown Coffee, which I haven’t tasted since Naoto & I went to Portland back in 2002!! So good! My dining companions had beer & cider. (If good coffee is offered, I don’t mind being the designated driver!)

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Naoto got the Smoked Corn Beef Hash with Eggs. It was a huge portion (perfectly sized for the Week of Indulgence!) which he polished off with ease.

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Karen & I both got the Tomato Apple Soup with the Yay Toast, which was a gjetost cheese and cheddar pancake…the soup was amazing–it was smooth and packed with flavor and it had a bit of spice and the pancake was perfect for dipping–it was a grown-up tomato soup and grilled cheese pair (but way better–the cheese was so interesting!).

Karen got the Fried Pickles & Onion rings to share and I got the Tempura Mashed Potatoes to share. The fried pickles & onion rings were so sinfully tasty, especially the dipping sauces–a ranch and a curry sauce. And my potatoes were the best mix of tempura-fried, crispy goodness hugging creamy mashed potatoes. They were served on Asian barbeque and ranch sauces.

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As soon as I pointed out that there was a Choco Taco on the dessert menu, Naoto was on it. Choco Tacos are his favorite summer snack, and this one (inspired by the original) was served in a parfait glass with candied pumpkin seeds (I think?) on top. Karen & I each had a couple of bites, but Mr. Indulgence polished off every chocolatey bit. I was too full to eat dessert at the restaurant, but I ordered the Blood Orange Meringue pie to go. (And then I forgot it on the table resulting in a trip back to the restaurant to retrieve my forgotten treat!)

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Look at that perfectly baked meringue! This pie is the perfect balance of tart and sweet…and I would drive back a hundred times for it! If you go, get the pie! Get the pie!

Since the Little Goat is open until 2AM, I hope Naoto & I can make an occasional late-night trip into the city for a little bite together when he gets done at Trader Joes (once he’s better, of course!) They also have a bakery with all sorts of intriguing bread and scone options (so maybe an early morning trip should be next?)

I think Little Goat juuuust might end up being the highlight of the Week of Indulgence…just a hunch.

P.S. Get the pie!

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#WeekofIndulgence

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Next Tuesday Naoto is having a little surgery to repair the cause of his chronic acid reflux. I’ll spare you the details, because acid reflux is not romantic (it is Valentine week, after all!)

After the surgery, Naoto will be on a strict diet for the next two months, slowly adding foods back into his diet as he heals. For the first two weeks, he can only eat broth, strained soups, pudding, milk, gelatin, yogurt, cottage cheese and well-cooked & pureed vegetables. Weeks 3-7 get a little bit better because we can add in tofu, white rice, eggs, fish and some other solid, substantial foods. But the real kicker is that it isn’t until Week 8 that he can have fresh fruits & vegetables, citrus, bread, meats, alcohol and caffeine. So basically, since eating and drinking are Naoto’s favorite hobbies, it’s going to be a rough two months. I’ve made my share of jokes about this change in lifestyle (my favorite: BYOB—Bring Your Own Broth) but in all seriousness, I feel really bad for him, and neither of us are looking forward to what this is going to mean for our social lives for the next two months.

So, in an effort to prepare for the upcoming diet, I’ve deemed this week The Week of Indulgence: a week of excessive eating and drinking adventures. We are going to pack in all of the foodie fun we can before Monday night when Naoto turns into a sad pumpkin who can’t eat anything at all before the surgery. We kicked things off this weekend with lunch at Sankyu (Naoto’s bento box is pictured above) and we are planning a few more food adventures, including two city spots we’ve been meaning to try. And, we are planning a little “Welcome Back to the Eating” party for when Naoto returns to a “normal” diet…so much to look forward to!

I’ve started using #weekofindulgence on Twitter and Instagram to track our food adventures…so be prepared for more food & drink posts than normal over there.

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It’s “Heart” Work

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Naoto & I are both members of our local gym. The difference is, he loves going and I hate going. I drag my feet out of the locker room and Naoto bounds out with excitement for the upcoming treadmill time (yes, that’s him above, super-excited about the workout ahead). When we update our runs (or in my case run/walks) on Daily Mile, Naoto writes things like, “Ran 5 miles. It felt awesome!” I write things like, “The only reason I ran for that long is because I wanted to see the end of the Friends episode.” When Naoto goes, he bounces around like a celebrity high fiving the card-taker at the door. When I go, I avoid eye contact and put my earbuds in so I’m not obligated to interact with anyone. (I think I’m the more normal one in this respect.) When Naoto goes he likes to take his time and change and shower in the locker room. I like to come dressed for the gym, rush into the locker room just to hang up my coat and shower in the privacy of my own bathroom when I get home. Naoto never turns on the treadmill’s TV or listens to music. I plot my gym visits around TV shows and often embarrass myself (& Naoto) by snort-laughing at Colbert or cheering out loud at a sports team.

But as annoying his enthusiasm about working out can be, I still love going to the gym with Naoto. He’s a good influence in more ways than one.

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Project Distraction…

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You know those little home improvement projects that you finish and then say, “What took me so long??” Yeah, this was one of those. The Great Clean-Out unearthed a whole lot of art gathering dust in the closets and on the floors of our bedrooms. This week I decided to tackle the desk art.

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On a giant piece of kraft paper, I tested my layout on the floor first (with Presley’s “help” of course) and traced the frames onto the paper. Then I cut out each “frame” and hopped on my ladder and taped them all up, readjusting a few times until I got them all where I wanted them. Then I measured for the picture hangers and hammered and hung each picture one at a time. I readjusted things as I went, based on tiny mis-measurements. It wasn’t an exact science (for instance, I’m not sure how I feel about the tiny cat floating away from everything at the top) but I’m pretty happy with my  little collection up there. Eventually I’d love to take down my twine-o-postcards and have art hanging up across the entire desk unit, but I’m okay with this for now.

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Finishing this was a nice distraction from the Great Clean-Out (which is still sprawled across the dining room table and the living room floor). Now back to putting things away and plotting the rest of the art in the apartment. Right now, I’m loving the haphazard collage look and I’m thinking I might need to “build” another one with some old family pictures in my stash.

Clockwise from the top left: Cat–postcard purchased in Japan//Girl on a Swing papercut–Tina Tarnoff//photo strip–taken at Fitzgeralds a few summers ago//You Are My Sunshine–purchased at Renegade a few years ago, but I can’t remember the seller//Presley–one of my first Instagrams, developed by PostalPix//Iron Head collage–Vivienne Strauss//Lord Byron Letter Writing quote–Bison Bookbinding & Letterpress

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Into the Fold

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Last night my friend Jackie and I went to the Oak Park Library for an origami flower class.

Ian, a librarian and the origami class teacher, learned origami at a young age and has been doing it ever since. He was a cool cucumber in a large class, full of latecomers, adults, children and different paper-folding capabilities. He had a big board displaying the step-by-step folds, which was an awesome tool both for comparing my folds and trying to sneak ahead as I got more comfortable. I folded the three flowers above in about an hour and my folds were better each time. That’s not to say my last flower was perfect (oh, far from it!)…but I did get better!

Learning a new paper fold made me realize how much I enjoy learning and taking classes. I need to take advantage of opportunities like this one and get out more often, even in the snowy cold!

Thanks for joining me, Jackie!

If you are interested in learning how to fold an origami lily, I found a helpful tutorial here.

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Mail That Made Me Squeal

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Get it?

I think I should just give in and accept that February is officially going to be Pun Month because of all the Valentine puns out there.

The internet has done amazing things for my mailbox. Before joining the Letter Writers Alliance and Twitter, my postal fun consisted of mailing a bunch of cards and letters out and receiving “Hey, I got your card” emails in return. Being able to connect with other letter writing and mail art lovers on the internet has been not only rewarding for my mailbox, but for my creativity, too. Once I started receiving awesome envelopes from all over the world, I wanted to step up my own game, try to push the envelope (another pun!) and play more and use up my supplies.

I got an envelope full of mail goodness from Mary, a self-described life, mail and street art enthusiast whom I “met” on Twitter. Inside the envelope was a tiny pink plastic pig (pictured above).

It. Made. My. Day!

Right now he is sitting on my desk reminding me to keep it clean and to “live brilliantly” as Mary suggested. Thank you, Mary–a proper postal thank you will be coming your way this week!

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Pink & Red Cheer

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I love Valentine’s Day…not in the Naoto-buy-me-flowers-and-jewelry sort of way (Oh how I dread the flower and jewelry commercials that will be playing over the next week around here!) No, I like it because it’s a tiny celebration in the middle of the gloomiest days of winter. I like it because it gives me another excuse to mail out some pink and red cheer to friends and family. I like it because all of the good Valentines have a pun. I like it because Dove dark chocolates taste a little bit better in heart shapes.

This year I bought some sweet Valentines, and a couple of supplies to make my own. I wanted to buy a box of classroom Valentines at the drugstore to tuck in with my letters this month, but I couldn’t find anything that didn’t have a licensed character on it. I wish they still made Valentines with generic cute people and quirky animals and silly puns (oh, the PUNS!), like my vintage selection above.

Other than cards and some lighthearted decorating (pun intended), we really don’t celebrate Valentines Day around here. The first year I knew Naoto, he tucked a tiny box of chocolates in my apartment screen door. I ended up tripping on it and smashing it a bit, but it is still one of my favorite Valentine gestures. We were just friends back then, so it was an unexpected treat.

Are you making or sending Valentines this year? Or do you consider Valentine’s Day to be a “Hallmark holiday” and completely ignore it? What’s the best Valentine pun you’ve seen?

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It’s Been Quiet Around Here…

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…because I’m in the middle of the most depressing cleaning project ever. Depressing only because I’ve put it off for so long.

We’ve lived here for two and a half years, but in some ways, I feel like we’ve never settled in. Certain things have never had a “place” and the guest room has always been an easy home for clutter. So this week I’ve been making a “place” for the things I want to keep and bagging up the things that I don’t. On Wednesday I finished up in our bedroom and our closets. This makes me extremely happy because repainting our bedroom and finishing our bathroom (FYI: the big work is done and we’re using it, but we still have to hang our mirror, the hooks and some art) are the last two big things we have to do before I will feel completely settled here. (Full disclosure: Our bedroom is the first room I painted when we bought our apartment. I’ve hated the color since the first roll. Lesson: Life’s too short to live with a bad paint choice.) Now that the bedroom and the closets are decluttered, we can get in there and paint. (And when I say we, I mean me.)

Yesterday I started tearing apart the guest room…it’s a big job in there. It was already a disaster and then, while I was cleaning our bedroom, I used the guest bed as a place to hold the things I couldn’t decide about. Now it’s time to pay the piper and find that stuff a home, or send it out. The picture above is of my stationery drawer–which has gotten a little bit out of hand. (Just a little.) I’ve sifted through it and everything fits into a basket now, which will be much easier to transport into the living room for letter writing. Tonight, I’m tackling the craft stuff, getting rid of dead and uninspiring materials and organizing the stuff that’s left. I’m trying to consolidate all of the like items and find them a home once and for all.

As depressing as the Great Clean Out has been, it’s also like a mini surprise party! I’ve unearthed some amazing things that I’d forgotten about like letters from old college friends and my old work notebook, filled with haikus that I’d written during meetings. (I was a diligent employee.) I’m glad I’m taking the time to find a good home for these little treasures of my past. And, I’m glad that I’ll soon be able to see all the craft stuff so I can use it up and spend it out.

So, that’s what’s been keeping me away from doing anything fun. Hopefully I’ll be back next week with a finished project and some good stuff to share (like an old work haiku).

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