Let me paint a little picture for you. It’s the first night of dog obedience class. There are about 10 other dogs; most appear to be purebreds. And most look like this isn’t their first time at the rodeo. It’s more of a”refresher” course. Louis is barking, tugging, whining, and desperately wants to sniff them all. We get our fair share of looks. I want to scream “He’s a mutt from the shelter that we just adopted three weeks ago!” Instead I cry in the car on the way home. I feel embarrassed and frustrated. Why didn’t he seem to learn anything? When will he get better? As if life already didn’t test my patience enough, Louis sure has been on a daily basis. But he’s improving, slowly but surely. Some days we take one step forward and two steps back. But at least we’re pointed in the right direction. Life, in general, can feel the same way. But most things we stress about each day don’t really matter down the line. Our patience is tested just to see how tough we are, how much crap we can handle. So that we come out way stronger on the end. PS: I promise this will not turn into a dog blog. Just have to get it out of my system for a post or two.
And it’s all this guy’s fault. Well, almost. With my new job and our newest family member, I haven’t had much (read: any) free time. Meet Louis (pronounced Louie) Lincoln Fairchild, a pup we brought home from the Anti-Cruelty Society just three weeks ago. All we know is that he’s from a shelter in KY and he’s around one years old. So since he and I share a home state, it was obviously meant to be. And for the most part, he’s a good boy. He loves to cuddle and greet people with lots of licks. But he doesn’t come when he’s called, and he’s still working on the housebreaking thing. As soon as I can get things a bit under control, I promise to get back to blogging—and that 30-day challenge…which turned into a 90-day one. Sigh. I hope you understand. Our first night of puppy training is tonight, so wish us luck!
You know how you can remember special moments in life based on the food you were eating? It feels like yesterday that we were in Istanbul chowing down on our favorite dish, menemem, for breakfast (below). It was wonderfully seasoned, familiar yet exotic, and just what we needed to fuel us for long days of sightseeing. As the days of fall turn to winter and we daydream about faraway destinations, I suggest recreating a memory with food.
I riffed on this recipe to make menemem at home (below). By swapping in chorizo for sausage, I added some heat, and we had to use less tomatoes and more onions (it was too early for grocery shopping). Our version turned out less juicy, but delicious all the same. And when Andrew found out that I was planning to make it, he pitched in to help. As we chopped and sautéed, we reminisced about the trip and that meal. “Yeah, add a little more peppers plus a pinch more salt.” And “I think we should add tons of cheese at the end.” No, we weren’t in Turkey—but at least it didn’t taste so far away.
I’m beyond thrilled to share my latest home project with you! Just a few days ago, I finally convinced Andrew to stop studying for approximately one hour to help me finish something I’ve been wanting to do since we moved in. In just over an hour, we covered a wall in our guest bedroom with rad marble paper from Dick Blick. And guess how much the whole thing cost? Just $50 for the paper, Modge Podge, and brushes we used. Our pup friend, Max, happened to be staying with us that weekend. I think he loved it too. NOTE: Don’t do this if you have awesome walls. We do not. In fact, our walls have layers of wallpaper living below paint.Step 1: Measure the paper and calculate how many pieces you’ll need to cover the wall. We needed to trim a few of ours down so they’d fit perfectly. Gather your other materials (shown below).Step 2: Apply a semi-thick coat of Modge Podge to the back of one paper piece using a foam brush.Step 3: Starting in one corner, carefully press the paper onto the wall. Step 4: Add a second sheet, but reverse the direction of the paper so that the pattern looks varied. With each piece, press the paper against the wall from one corner to another, removing any wrinkles as you go. Step 5: Carefully remove any excess paper along the bottom trim or along the corners where the walls meet.
Have you ever tried meditating? Or does the thought of it just put you to sleep? I fall more in the latter camp…which is exactly why I added it to my challenge list. I struggle most with staying focused on my breathing rather than allowing my brain to fire off in a million directions. What do I want for lunch? Have I thought of enough questions for my interview in 30 minutes? So this morning, I sat with my legs crossed and my eyes closed on the rug in our living room for 10 whole minutes. And more than halfway in, I finally felt my brain relax. I focused on my breath and then my senses started to heighten. It was a peaceful feeling, even if it only lasted for a few minutes. Since it’s something we all should do everyday, I’m planning to practice each morning this week. Do you have any meditation advice to share? Let me know!
I’ll be honest: I’ve been putting this challenge off for as long as possible. Andrew couldn’t wait for me to do it. Why? I’m 100 percent addicted to social media. Instagram is the last thing I check at night before my head hits the pillow, and the very first thing I look at in the morning. I check Facebook more times than I’m willing to admit. Often I do it without even thinking about it; my fingers enter in the web address out of pure habit. Usually it’s because my brain needs a break from writing, but you guys, I’m wasting full hours a day on this stuff. And I have a feeling some of you are, too. Because I’m being passed the social media baton of the Daily Candy Chicago account this week, I needed to get this challenge out of the way before it was too late. So yesterday was doomsday. I survived, but barely. To distract myself, I went to apple picking with some girlfriends. I snapped photos as we hunted down apples and blazed our own trail through a corn maze. Did I want to immediately post my favorite picture on Instagram? Sure. But instead, I found myself being more present in my conversations all day. I felt more productive, aware, and engaged. Will I give it up? Not a chance. But at least I know I can live without it.
Just a few weeks ago, I spent a magical weekend at Camp Wandawega (you might remember it from this post). This time, the occasion was a Kinfolk dinner, and a group of creative types gathered to make it happen. We tasted beer from Solemn Oath brewery, noshed on food by chef Cletus Friedman, and finished things off with s’mores made with Mast Brothers Chocolate bars. Beyond my friend Alexis, who I’d invited to join me, I didn’t know most folks there. Which meant we had lots of introductions to make, but plenty of time to get to know each other. I’m always on the lookout for potentially great stories to pitch and subjects to interview, so this was a fantastic way to meet people/network in a casual setting/check off this challenge from my list! And by the end of the night, we had exchanged contact info and Instagram handles. Below are some snapshots that I took on my phone of the setting and the food, but to see/read more and watch a video from the weekend, check out Tereasa’s blog post.
This challenge wasn’t on my original list, but I’ve been DYING to share my big news with you for several days now. As of today, I’m a full-time working girl…as the Chicago editor of Daily Candy! For those that don’t know, Daily Candy is a lifestyle website devoted to fashion, food, and entertainment that reaches six million women across the country via email, web, and video content. I’ve been a huge fan of the brand ever since my close girlfriend from college, Lauren, started working there many moons ago. And as you’re reading this, it’s highly likely that I’m experiencing first-day jitters, as I sit through training meetings at the company’s NYC headquarters. So after a year of living the freelance life, why in the world would I want a full-time job? It’s simple. This position provides the best of both worlds: a salary plus the lifestyle of a freelancer since I’ll be working from home. I’ll be hitting the streets of Chicago to test out hot, new restaurants, cool boutiques, and interview creative, hardworking small-business owners. This won’t be the end of my freelancing, nor will it be the end of this blog. But I hope you’ll be willing to cut me a break if I’m a bit slower with posts in the next few weeks. My plate is full—and I couldn’t be happier! Thanks so much for your support throughout this past year. I couldn’t have made it to this point without each and every one of you. This is just the beginning of what I’m sure will be an awesome ride.
On a scale of 1-10, I’d say I’m a 7 when it comes to eating healthy. I buy organic produce, eat good-for-me snacks, and incorporate whole grains and lean proteins on a daily basis. But I liberally use mayonnaise, regularly allow one glass of wine to turn into several, and eat my weight in cheese every week. Inspired by my friend Jessica Murnane, who built a killer business based on her plant-based diet, I challenged myself to eat like she does—aka truly clean—for a single day. Here are the lessons I learned:
1. Be prepared. When you cut so many things out of your diet, you need to do more prep work at home. I didn’t do enough of that, which is why my day started with peanut butter (although it was the natural kind) instead of almond butter.
2. Ask questions. The description for the delicious shrimp tacos I ordered from Antique Taco at lunch didn’t mention anything about the creamy sauce that the corn salad was tossed in. Delicious? Oh yeah. Challenge fail? For sure.
3. Get creative. I loved this almond butter curry sauce recipe on Jessica’s site, but I skeptical about it filling up my perpetually-hungry husband (yep, he went along with the challenge because I make the rules in this household…and cook all of his food). So I just added a ton of extra veggies—peppers, onions, carrots and broccoli—before tossing them in the almond sauce. I judge how much Andrew likes a meal based on his scarf speed. This one? I’d say this was a 2-minute meal, maybe less. He almost licked the plate clean, and so did I.
4. Branch out. When I hit Whole Foods mid afternoon to get curry paste, tamari, and almond butter for dinner, I picked up a vanilla bean chia pudding. It’s the second time I’ve tried this stuff, but I still can’t get past the booger-like texture. Guess ya win some, ya lose some.
The year was 1992. I was in fourth grade. And when you’re in fourth grade, the highlight of your day is recess. On one particularly sunny afternoon, my classmates and I decided to play a round of kickball. Because I was a girl (and a stringbean of one) I was usually picked last or next to last. That day was no different, but for some odd reason, I was urged to be the team pitcher. I was petrified, for good reason. I might have gotten one or two rolls under my belt before Will Padilla stepped up to the plate. Let’s just say this kid had a leg on him. I can still picture the deflated red ball flying directly towards my face. When ball met face, my little 65-pound-body flew backyards a few feet and landed with a thud on the pavement. It was not a pretty sight. I had no broken bones, but a broken spirit for sure. And with that, my pitching career ceased. Until last night! For the first time in my adult life, I’m a member of a matching-t-shirt-wearing sports team. I worked too much to join one in New York, but now I have time to play and it gets me out of the house while Andrew is studying. Last night was our first game, and we slaughtered the other team 10-3! And against my better judgement, I played two innings as the team pitcher. As I stepped up to the mound and gripped the red, slightly deflated ball for the first time, my stomach flip-flopped (seriously—I was nervous!). But with a little focus and some team support, I made it out alive. The photos below are horribly blurry (it’s hard to snap photos mid-game) but they serve as proof. The lesson of this challenge? No matter how big or small your fear may be, it’s healthy to face it…deflated red ball and all.