Tag Archives: food

Philadelphia Fun

I was in Philly last week/weekend for work.   As always, it was a lot of WORK… but I managed to squeeze in some fun.  

Some things on my to-do list:

1. Run the “Rocky” steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art–check!

I ran the mile and a half from my hotel to the steps… and then ALL the way to the top… it was quite a feat.   I even had the Rocky theme song playing as I ran up the steps.   A nice man who was in town for the English teacher convention (i.e. OUR convention) took this picture.   It’s a little embarrassing, but I was sooooo happy to have “proof.”

Afterwards, I tried running back to my hotel… and got lost (shocker!).   I probably got an extra 2 miles of running in + an extra 3 or 4 walking.   Navigational FAIL!

2.  See the Liberty Bell–check!

Through glass.  At night.  It wasn’t that impressive.   But I got one viable photo:

3.  Sample an authentic Philly cheesesteak– check!

You’ve probably heard of the famous rivalry between Genos and Pat’s– two steak stands in South Philly who vie for the title of “best” cheesesteak.    After our work was done, a colleague and I took a cab to sample the goods.  She got a *very* plain sandwich–steak and provolone only–from Genos and I got a pepper steak “with” + Whiz from Pat’s (that’s cheesesteak lingo for a cheesesteak with peppers and onions and, yes, Cheese Whiz).     Mine was better.  Not only did mine have the delicious goodness of the peppers, onions, and cheese whiz, the meat and bread of mine was tastier.  Pat’s wins… hands down.

Geno's on the left, Pat's on the right

 4.  Participate in the Philadelphia Marathon– FAIL (sorta!)

I had originally planned on running the 8K as part of the Philly marathon, but it sold out too quickly.  Then I thought about going down and spectating the beginning of the race.  But it was entirely too crazy down there.    I did, however, “crash” the marathon expo… and bought a couple of  shirts (one of which I’m wearing in my Rocky picture… it says “Will Run for Beer,” but you really can’t read it). Spending money counts as supporting the running community, right?  :)

entrance to the Philly Marathon expo--literally steps from our own exhibit hall entrance!

I also shared many dinners, laughs, drinks, and good times with my work buddies.   Putting on these shows is kinda like camp– you bond instantly with your co-workers.  Except it’s really hard work and we’re all tired and cranky.  But at the end of the day, it’s nice to have a good group of people to commiserate with!

 

Long time, no blog

I know the “too busy to blog” excuse is getting lame.  But it’s true.  I was hoping to write some proper blog posts, but since some of you like lists (shout out to Harley Quinn– I loved your last comment!), I figured I’d save myself the trouble of actually having to write anything.

In the last week and a half or so I:

  • Witnessed masked Mexican wrestling in Chicago.  It was awesome.
  • Tasted cucumber-flavored candy.  It was awful.
  • Learned that you really can’t just miss your connecting flight or your entire ticket is invalidated.
  • Re-booked my ticket.  Twice.
  • Got hit on by a Greek waiter in Chicago and a Mexican bar patron in Minneapolis.
  • Spent entirely too much time on Sporcle.  Finally learned the correct spelling of Kazakhstan.  It comes in handy.
  • Ate some killer Malaysian food in MPLS.  Heard a great (albeit very broken) story about a fire in a Malaysian place in Chicago.
  • Witnessed and responded to an on-the-job accident. Not real common in my line of work.
  • Learned I like tamales.
  • Congratulated a friend on her recent engagement. Yay Keem!
  • Almost forgot, and then lost, and then found my journal/notebook.
  • Saw Star Trek. Loved it, despite zero familiarity with the original.  Reminded me a lot of Star Wars, actually.  And Lost.
  • Met (and held!) another newborn baby.
  • Picked up a new nickname (which I’m trying HARD to not let stick).
  • Ran my second 5K, less than a month after my first, with no iPod. After being gone for a week and out drinking the night before.
  • Mowed my lawn immediately after the 5K.  Bad idea.
  • Learned that I was selected to be a Nielsen “family.”  I can’t wait to report my 2.5 hours of TV watching a week.
  • Improved my ability to ride public transportation.
  • Received a comped dessert because dinner took so long.  Waited about 20 mins for said dessert.
  • Had multiple weird conversations about weight loss.  Including one that started with “I hope you’re not offended, but…”  Um, no, not offended!
  • Took a photo next to a statue of Mary Tyler Moore.
  • Met a friend’s new boyf.
  • Spent Mother’s Day with my mom, brother, and sister-in-law. Against our advice, my mom insisted on having it at her house and making all the food.
  • Ran in Chicago.  Gave unsuspecting motorist directional advice.  Felt really bad afterward.
  • Attended a baby shower and graduation party.
  • Received invitations to two other baby showers.
  • Witnessed teachers literally FIGHTING over free books.
  • Engaged in some tipsy shopping.  Bought books and a belt between happy hour and an awesome wine-fueled dinner.

Things I haven’t done

  • unpacked
  • watched last week’s Lost
  • slept, at least not much

Of Rice and Men

You know how facebook’s new prompt is “What’s on your mind?”  Well, this is what mine would say if I answered that question correctly (and repeatedly)

  • It’s Friday night. I’m hanging out at home.  I’m okay with that.  I can handle solitude in small doses.
  • I paid $75 this week to get my oil changed and a new tail light.  Then they told me I needed new brakes and a bunch of other stuff.  I hate car repairs.  I don’t have a car payment, so I can’t complain.  But, seriously!
  • I’ve apparently forgotten how to make rice.  It’s been cooking for probably an hour and I’ve had to add water twice.  Grrr..
  • I had a great run tonight. I think it’s the new shoes.
  • I have a super busy weekend planned.  Hence the staying home on a Friday night.
  • We started a “Biggest Loser” thing this week in preparation for Steph’s wedding.   I think it will be fun. I’m taking “before” and “after” pictures, but I can’t post them until it’s all over.
  • My co-worker just had her babies.  Yes, that’s right– twins.  And she has a one-year old at home.  Congrats!
  • I need to write a couple stories for my class. I have some ideas, but I can’t bring myself to write them yet.  Thus, the blogging.
  • I’m dog sitting for the night and I just discovered Roxie has this crazy “patch” of skin/fur that needs to be checked out.  Yet another appointment I’ll forget to make.
  • I really need a personal assistant.  Or maybe just someone to pay my bills.  I’m also putting that off.
  • Kansas’ Carry On My Wayward Son makes zero sense.  But it’s so damn catchy.
  • Kansas is my least favorite state to drive through.  On one trip out West, my parents drove through Kansas in the middle of the night to spare us the boredom.  I woke up in the middle of the state thinking there was a rain storm.  There wasn’t. It was bugs.  Splattering on the windshield enough to make me wake up and think it was rain.  Gross.   My apologies to any  Kansasians (?) who might read this…
  • The shuffle on my iPod is apparently not working ‘cuz Kansas is now on again.  Annoying.  Must change it.
  • Got up to change the song on the iPod and realized the rice was burning. Smoke alarm went off. Hilarity ensued. 
  • Foo Fighters now on iPod.  Best of You. I can’t hear this song without thinking about Breaking Bonaduce when his wife gave him a mirror with the lyrics on it. “I needed somewhere to hang my head/without your noose.”  Yeah, totally not a love song.  I think they’re now divorced.
  • I think the burnt rice ruined my “good” stock pot.  Ugh.
  • This is my new favorite quote:  “I don’t feel middle-aged — I just feel like I’ve been young a lot longer than most people. “
    Not that I am middle aged, but the second half really resonated with me.   It came from this really great article on drinking.

I think I’ll end on that note.  ‘Night.

San Francisco Stories, Part 1

It’s been a week since I left San Fransisco and I’m just now getting around to posting the pics/blog.   Thankfully, I have Twitter to remind me what I did!    I’ll split it into two posts to make it more readable.  Without further adieu…

Tuesday– Travel and Twin Spotting

We made it to San Fran without any problems.  Checked into the hotel, had a late lunch, and walked around a bit.  We saw a street performer with a pet rat and a pet cat but, alas, no photos exist.  It’s too bad, really, ‘cuz it was quite the sight.

We were able to get a (pretty crappy) photo of the Brown Twins, though. They’re living San Francisco landmarks– twin sisters who dress alike and frequent Nob Hill eateries.   We didn’t even know about them until later, but I was able to snap this (bad) picture of them. On this day, they were dressed in leopard-print jackets and cowboy hats.  Pimp!

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Wednesday– Set up (Sorta), Eye-Talian, and Tiki

The first day of work was a logistical nightmare.   Due to union restrictions,  we ended up watching other people do the work until about 5:00 then we unpacked our booth.  I’m a strong supporter of unions, but even my resolve was tested.  In the end, it worked out fine, but it sure was frustrating!    

The end result of 8 hours of union labor and 1.5 hours of ours!

The end result of 8 hours of union labor and an hour and a half of ours!

We then set out for dinner.  As you may recall, dinners out are the highlight of my work trips and Kurt had heard of this Italian place called Cafe Tiramisu.  It was 8 short blocks from the hotel, which was a welcome change from sitting on my a$$ all day.  Unfortunately, we got a little lost and the 8 blocks ended up being much longer– and often uphill.  

Once we made it to the restaurant, it was worth it.  The waiter called us kids, there were hilarious misspellings on the menu (which became somewhat of a theme–see below) and the food was pretty good.  I got the quail, which was good, but reminded me how much I hate to eat meat off of bones:

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Good. But lots of bones.

The highlight of the evening, however, was the dessert.  We ordered the sampler for 3 and it didn’t disappoint– various types of gelato, sorbet, cakes, cannolis, biscotti, tiramisu (natch),  profiteroles, etc.   Even though it was billed as enough for 3 people, it was waaaayyy too much.  Apparently, they also had a pasta sampler, but we didn’t try it:

mmm...dessert!

mmm...dessert!

After dinner, we met a former co-worker, Jane (of Not So Plain Jane fame) out for drinks.  She took us to the Tonga Room, which was absolutely AWESOME!   It’s a Tiki-themed bar in the oh-so-fancy Fairmont hotel.  The drinks are strong, the dancing is hoppin’ and it made for a great people-watching experience. (Read Jane’s description here.) 

There was a couple making out on the dance floor, a guy in a white shirt with zero inhibitions and everyone was having a good time.  My only regret is that I didn’t get up and dance.  Andrew offered me free drinks for the rest of the trip, and I didn’t take it.   The Tonga Room is apparently closing soon, so I’m glad we got a chance to experience it.   

A few pics (a la Lisa):

My drink.  Can't remember the name. Tasted like a rum runner.

My drink. Can't remember the name. Tasted like a rum runner.

Kurt loooves his pirate drink (again, can't remember the name!)

Kurt loooves his drink, The Scorpion :)

Andrew's Mai Thai came in a super awesome plastic coconut

Andrew's Mai Thai came in a super awesome plastic coconut

And an umbrella!!

With an umbrella!!

For some dumb reason, I didn’t take any pictures of Jane, who was an awesome tour guide.  It was so much fun to get an “inside look” at San Francisco.  I’m so bummed we didn’t get to hang longer, but the Tonga Room was definitely one of the highlights of a super fun trip.  Thanks, Jane!!

——————————

Funny Menus

One of the recurring themes of this trip (in addition to “you did a GREAT job” and hiding my phone–very funny, boys!), was the number of funny things we read on menus.

At Cafe Tiramisu, they had HORRIBLE misspellings.   Chocoloate for chocolate, Yourgurt for yogurt, etc.   They also had a disclaimer at the bottom that said something like: ” We are not responsible for lost or stolen items.”  Which we thought was odd.

There was a disclaimer on another menu that essentially said:  “Kids are welcome.  Unless they are crying.  Then you need to remove them.”   We thought that was awesome!

TO BE CONTINUED . . . 

Soba-licious

I know what you’re thinking– this isn’t a cooking blog.   And you’re right.  It’s not.  And I’m no expert chef, either.  But I love soba noodles.  And I feel the need to share this love with the world!

 Soba is just another term for buckwheat.  So, it’s just buckwheat pasta, about the same size as regular spaghetti.  Soba can be served hot or cold and are usually used in salads and soups, but I like it in stir-fry.

I’m not sure how good these noodles would be with traditional red or white sauce and they’re probably too “weird” for picky kid eaters, but they’re super easy to make and are ready in no time, so give ‘em a try!

The color and texture take a little getting used to.  The noodles are a weird brown/almost black color and are kinda grainy, but if you eat whole wheat pasta, you’re probably already used to the texture.   The taste isn’t over-powering, but it’s a little nuttier/earthier than traditional noodles.  It has more depth and the noodles are good at soaking up other flavors, which is probably why they’re often used in soups.

One package of noodles is enough to make a week’s worth of stir-fry for me.  They’re ready in about 6-8 minutes.  While they’re boiling, I just sautee some garlic and onions in a big pan or wok, add whatever veggies I have on hand (this time it was red and green peppers and broccoli), add the noodles and some soy sauce (or teriyaki–whatever you like)  and voila–lunch/dinner for a week. 

Here’s what the package looks like.  You can get them at Strawberry Fields in Urbana and I’m sure any “health” store or Whole Foods carries them.  I haven’t seen them at County Market or Schnuck’s, but I might have looked in the wrong place!

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And a shot of me reheating the noodles in my wok. I didn’t think to take pictures when I *made* the stir fry earlier this week. (This is probably 1/4 of the total amount I made!)

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And the finished product!!
(I would usually use a bowl, but I thought the plate was a prettier presentation–anything for the blog. lol)

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Some fun soba facts :

  • Soba noodles are a traditional New Year’s Eve dish in Japan
  • Instead of bringing bread or baked goods over, Japanese families bring soba noodles as housewarming gifts

Also, anyone have a recipe for an easy, but “nice” dessert I can serve with Italian food?  All I can think of is tiramisu and I don’t really like it that much.  Plus, it’s kind of a pain.  

Suggestions?

30 Days of 30: Last Hurrah in Chicago

Even though my 30 days of 30 were supposed to end on my birthday (Feb 2), my college friends had planned a party/reunion in Chicago for the following weekend.   My friend Lindsay flew in from Virginia and my sister-in-law Jo and our friend Ron drove up with me to celebrate.

Friday night–

Jo, Ron, Kyle, Kenny, Kenny’s girlfriend Sascha and I went to the Cobra Lounge to see some bands play.  Kenny knew the bassist/guitar player of one of the bands and the lead singer of the other band, so that was pretty cool.  It was a decidedly “heavy/alternative” venue, but the music was more punk, so I’m not sure how the regulars felt about the bands, but we had a good time.  

We also played Rock Band at Kenny/Kyle’s house where I got my very first “perfect” in singing.   (Granted, it was on easy,  but a perfect’s a perfect!)  “Celebrity Skin” by Hole is now my official go-to Rock Band song. 

Saturday–

Due to a late evening and the fact that the boys’ apartment is like a cave, we slept REALLY late that day.  We finally got up and went to “lunch” at Giordano’s around 3.  It was good.  Not great, but decent.   Then, since Jo hadn’t seen many of the tourist-y parts of Chicago, we walked around for a bit:

Me, Jo, Ron in front of the skating rink at Millenium Park

Me, Jo, Ron in front of the skating rink at Millenium Park

The Bean

The Bean

Kyle and I in front of the Art Institute

Kyle and I in front of the Art Institute

Saturday Night– PART-ay!!
The party/reunion was held at Moe’s Cantina in Wrigleyville.   Ron T. organized everything and he did a great job.  He was always the social director in college, too and he didn’t disappoint.   Moe’s was a nice, big, open bar.  They served tapas and gave us a great drink package w/o having to guarantee a minimum number of people.   I highly reccomend it.
 More importantly, though, it was great to hang out with so many old friends– some I hadn’t seen in years!
The PRSSA crew: (back) Nikki, Lindsay, Tommy, Me, Buddy.  Front:  Ron T and Janell

The PRSSA crew: (back) Nikki, Lindsay, Tommy, Me, Buddy. Front: Ron T and Janell

Same crew, different camera

Same crew, different camera

My 'home' crew (with the exception of Sascha):  Sascha, Kenny, Ron, Me, Kyle

My 'home' crew: Sascha, Kenny, Ron, Me, Kyle

Nikki, Me, Buddy:  Self-portrait time!

Nikki, Me, Buddy: Self-portrait time!

Jo and I (note the yummy-looking skewer)

Jo and I (note the yummy-looking skewer)

Jo and I "sampling" said skewer

Jo and I "sampling" said skewer

It was a super fun weekend and there are plenty more stories/pictures to share, but I’ll leave it at that.   It was a perfect way to turn 30.
** This now concludes Carichblogs’ coverage of the 30 days of 30.  Really.  This time I mean it**

30 Days of 30: By the Numbers

Those of you paying close attention may have noticed that the 30 days of 30 technically lasted only 29 days (Jan 5-Feb 2).  There were also a couple of unclaimed days in there, but I filled them by hanging out with my mom and a co-worker.  

BUT… the 30 days aren’t really over yet.  When this blog goes live, I’ll be in Chicago for the finale, so I’m counting my party on Saturday as the 30th day.

If my calculations are correct, here are some other interesting numbers about my 30 days:

60– Number of people I celebrated with this month.* 

36– Number of locations– 16 restaurants, 11 bars**, 1 bakery,  1 arena, 1 bowling alley, 1 movie theater, 1 out of town location (Galena), 1 shopping center, and 3 private residences.  

The most common location for 30 days activities was Bunny’s, followed closely by a tie between Crane Alley and Boltini.   This is notable because I probably haven’t been to either of these places much in the past year, but I really like them.  Houlihan’s and the Courier were the most popular non-drinking establishments. 

6– Number of places I’d never been before: Galena, Bridget’s house, La Gourmandise Bistro, The Brass Rail, The Sandwich shop (whose name I’ve yet to look for), Cakes on Walnut.

14-  Number of different activites: lunch,  dinner, drinks, dessert, Illinois game, bowling, LOST watch, movie, snowboarding, Superbowl party, live band, book club, story teller, trivia

15– Number of times I went out for lunch

13-- Number of times I went out for drinks

6– Number of times I went out for dinner***

2– Number of times I went out for dessert.  Again, notable because I rarely go out just for dessert.

2– Number of Illini games watched**** (one at the Assembly Hall, one at Bunny’s)

2– Number of things I’d never done before:  go snowboarding and listen to a professional story teller

0– Number of pounds I’ve gained.  Seriously. I definitely feel fatter/less healthy, but according to the scale, my weight is the same.

I don’t even want to think about the number of drinks or calories I consumed.  Thank goodness I didn’t have this “by the numbers” idea earlier or else I really would turn into the guy from Supersize Me. Lol.

More importantly, though, I’m amazed at the number of things I was able to cram into one month… and the number of people I convinced to “play along.”  It was really a great experiment and I’m glad I did it.  I highly doubt 31 days of 31 are in my future, though :)

In case you missed them (or just want to relive the fun), here are the weekly recaps:

——————-

Notes on the Methodology

*Includes only people in “my party” and does not include repeats (i.e. if I had lunch with Lisa one day and happy hour another, she is only counted once).

**For this purpose a bar is defined as a place primarily for drinking whereas a restaurant is an eating establishment.  I chose to count them based on why/when I was there.  (i.e. Farren’s is a bar/restaurant, but I was only there for lunch, so it gets counted as a restaurant.)

*** This number is probably lower than it should be.  I counted an event as drinks if drinking was the primary purpose of the activity (i.e. happy hour). It’s more than likely that dinner was also consumed.

**** Again, possibly artificially deflated.  There may have been an Illini game on during a happy hour that I did not record as a “game watch”