Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Good, the Insane, and the Cute.

We refer to our dogs as Java the Good and Lucy the Insane.
As unfair and limiting as these labels may seem, they have held true for the most part.
Sure, Java the Good has perfected her "my life sucks" grimace better than most dogs, but the overall effect is a failure because she accessorizes this look with her constantly waging tail. She is obedient beyond comprehension and rarely wavers in her perfection. In fact, Lucy the Insane has taught our rule-bound Java to loosen up a bit and she'll even sneak onto the couches now and beg for table food like a normal dog. Java the Good has taught Lucy the Insane to love and trust the people in her life and to do her business out side (most of the time). Beyond that I thought that, like Leif, Java merely tolerated Lucy's presence in her world. I assumed their relationship was based solely on proximity and had nothing to do with affection.
I assumed wrong.
Last night the wedge of very expensive parmiggiano-reggiano went missing from the kitchen counter. It is true that Lucy has an oddly refined palate considering she spent the better part of her young life in a state of neglect. She loves a sip of a high-end micro brew and knob of nutty aged cheese just like any other foodie, but how, HOW would she get that cheese? Java the Good retrieved it for her of course...and that is how we came to find Java looking ashamed in her bed and Lucy sitting in the dark inhaling a block $20/pound cheese in Emma's room last night.
The inkling of a newly forming bond perhaps?
look at how I found these two criminals when I finished getting dressed this morning...
I foresee trouble.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Found items...

Look at these little treasures I found after my party...
thoughtful cards, a lovely jade plant, and a set of precious embroidered dish towels!
Thanks everyone!
Oh and in case you are wondering, I made a gorgeous chicken vegetable soup out of the leftover chicken.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Spatula on the Ceiling.

My friend A of the Pfour invited P of The Frigs and me out for a glass of wine yesterday afternoon. Since our friend P is heading back to work after her maternity leave and I just celebrated a birthday, A thought we deserved a quick week-end outing. I had planned a nice Sunday dinner and threw a stuffed chicken in the oven before I walked out the door. A, P, and I chatted and laughed and sipped; we decided there is simply no excuse for not doing something like that more often. Our conversation turned to the blog to book I just finished and A suggested P swing by to see it. They threatened to eat my chicken and walked me home.
I opened the front door and the only thought in my head was...
There is a spatula on the ceiling.
I turned my head and saw a giant home-made happy birthday sign and suddenly a large group of kids jumped out from behind the furniture and shouted, "Surprise!"
My next thoughts were,
Whose Birthday is it? Do I have a kid with me? Oh, wait this must be for me!
I suddenly realized a large number of my closet adult friends were gathered in the dining room around the corner and this was, in fact, a legitimate and well-planned party. This was a full on event in my house and here is the thing...I had NO IDEA it was going to happen.
Stunned...I was stunned.
And there were tongs hanging from the door knob and ladles dangling from the mantel.

Once I recovered from my shock I learned who was behind all this madness...

...Emma and a trio of her closet friends.
Not only did these four, contact A to execute the rouse, but planned the party, invited the guests, cooked the food, and decorated the house...they also dressed like French waiters (complete with aprons pencil drawn curly mustaches) and served all the guests at the party. Jbcoolcat has quite a way with the camera and served as official photographer.
Despite the fact the original party plans included a trio of soups, several entrees, and garlic mashed potatoes, the girls cooked up a memorable menu including, skewered pesto tortellini, popcorn, assorted cheeses, artichoke dip, fresh fruit, nuts, home-made caramel apples, and a Reine de Saba cake (Bell you are quite the young baker!).

Throughout the evening the guests were pulling out their blackberries and sharing the emails Emma had sent them over the course of the week...they all went something like this:

Hey guys,
okay so this is a big surprise to my mom... me and my friends are throwing a surprise for my mom. we have her out of the house from 4 to 6. if you can come please be at the Elsmo's house at 5:30, DO NOT R.S.V.P. by phone!!!!!!! e-mail me back.
SHHHHHHHHHHH... it's a surprise!

Upon receiving these emails most, if not all, guests contacted Leif
to make sure he was in the loop! Experience has taught them checking in is a good thing.
I love my friends and thankfully, both Leif and Finn were in the loop. How they kept Finn quiet is beyond me! is the deal.
My daughter and her friends threw me a birthday party...a party planned down to the last thoughtful detail, including a tiny chef's hat for Thad's Boat.
How many parents can claim that?
As a mom, you work tirelessly to raise a child who is among other things, appreciative, creative, confident, and loving.
As that child grows up and becomes more and more independent everyday, a mom hopes their child will find friends that are of similar ilk.
This party served as confirmation that not only is my daughter incredibly admirable person, but her friends are too. I am at once proud and humbled.

CatK, Bell, Jbcoolcat, and my beautiful Emma,
There are not enough words to express how happy you made me last night. It was the best birthday party I never knew I wanted or deserved.
I count the result of your efforts among the best compliments of my life and I am not sure how to thank you.

If you girls know what I can do with a whole leftover chicken I'll take any recipes you offer!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sushi... around the corner

How happy am I?
Anytime a stylish little sushi joint pops up in my neck of the woods I get pretty darn excited...
When it is as good as Sen Sushi on Oak Park Ave I pretty much want to dance a jig.

Leif and the kids took me out for a late birthday celebration last night and I suggested we check out this tiny restaurant before we went to the movies. Every last bite was divine...even Finn's little ebi nigri were darling! Leif loved his Asparagus Negi Maki...

and my Red Dragon Roll was superb!

Check it out as soon as possible...

814 S Oak Park Ave
(between Van Buren St & Harrison St)
Oak Park, IL 60304
(708) 848-4400

Saturday, September 26, 2009

On the Pitch

Finn hit the pitch today and played with a great deal of heart and speed.
His efforts were rewarded when he meshed a sweet goal.
I love that I can see the pride all over his face!

Friday Dinner

Last night we all enjoyed a Friday night night dinner with our neighbor Matt and his boys. We also met another Oak Park family with about a million "one degree of separation" friends and acquaintances. Matt seriously threw down some authentic Mexican fare...pork carnitas, steak tacos, homemade beans, rice, and a coffee flan that was pretty ridiculous. The table was over flowing with bowls and bowls of various tortilla toppings! I had come hungry and was thrilled I had...everything was delicious. Emma came to Matt's dinner straight from dance and my girl loves anything on a tortilla; she might have been the happiest Elsmo at the table! It was a comfy dinner with an early end and I loved it all.
I went home to enjoy the best night's sleep I have had in a long time.
It reminded me that I enjoy being a guest almost as much as I enjoy being the cook!
Thanks Matt!

Friday, September 25, 2009


...all 356 pages of it.
It is a year in the life of my blog, hard bound, and pretty much beautiful!
My friend A of the Pfour introduced me to Blurb, an online book making service, and I took full advantage of their "blog to book" software. I have been building the book for a good long while now and when the finished product arrived in the mail it was clear this is the journal of all journals. It is a lovely little coffee table book filled with stories and photographs that would have surely been forgotten otherwise. What an amazing treasure for our family.
I am already building year two!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Birthday Wishes.

Birthday wishes abounded for me yesterday! My friends and neighbors took me out for an Italian lunch, Leif sent me a bouquet of stunning roses, and Emma and Finn left me notes and did all kinds of little favors for me all day. Leif had to work late and since turning 35 brings a new sense of maturity and desire to take control of your life I invited of few ladies over for champagne and cake on the deck. I was thrilled they were able make it over and sweetly surprised by lovely cards and darling French Apron from the Careful Peach!
I had a wonderful day.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Dentist Sent Me

Yesterday my man had to have two fillings. I am sure he will appreciate me mentioning these cavities were not his fault as he is terribly proud of his perfect dental record up until this point. Sadly two of his darn teeth just came in too slowly and he ended up with some strange decay near the gum line. Finn avoided having anesthesia by being really tough. The dentist was impressed and suggested I take him to have an ice cream cone upon leaving the office. I obliged of course and when Finn got to the counter in the ice cream parlor he said, "You'll never believe this, but the dentist sent me." The woman behind the counter laughed and promptly filled the bottom of his cone with M&M's. To say the least, our dentist employs at least one brilliant business tactic!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


This afternoon my political friends took me out for an early birthday lunch. Collectively the four of us represent four decades...30's, 40's, 50's and 60's. Of course, that makes me the spastic baby of the crew and I play my part well. I picked the restaurant and suggested my group of lovely wise ladies make the trip to Urban Belly in the city for noodles and dumplings. I have been reading a great deal about this bare bones noodle bar located in a strip mall in Chicago's Avondale neighborhood. With former roots in fine dining, Chef Kim, has been praised for his communal casual establishment and rumors abound his concept is soon to be elevated to multiple locations...think chain...and I wanted to see if the experience lived up to the hype.

The answer...yes it did. I loved my pork belly ramen, squash dumplings with peach sauce, and the wrinkled beans. YUM. Visit this place for a casual lunch as soon as possible...and if you could enjoy your lunch with friends as nice as I did I assure you your meal will be even more delicious.
Thanks ladies. You are the best.

Fashion Fall

Fashion week just came to a close in New York and I found the following video of a Washington DC newscast covering a fashion show a few years ago. I am a frequent faller and I can sympathize with this poor model on some level, however, I have a seriously shorter distance to fall, more than ample cushioning to soften the blow, and a tendency to wear sensible shoes. Perhaps these are the differences that make this particular fall so spectacular, but for whatever reason these men just lose it.
Enjoy, if you have not seen this before.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Diwali Candles

In November, Emma and Finn will perform with Momenta in The Flowering Tree. The Indian story tells of a poor young girl who has the magical ability to transform into a tree and sell her blossoms at the palace to care for an ill relative. Emma is playing the hot spice, Cumin and Finn is going to be an elephant complete with plungers as feet!
Momenta always puts on a beautiful show with a creative home spun edge and the fall show will be no exception. Today I helped the production along by making dozens and dozens and dozens of Diwali candles out of battery operated votive candles and disassembled Hawaiian Leis. They really are quite lovely. The tips of my fingers, however, are not. Anytime I use a glue gun I end up wounded, but the show must go on!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Bboots Crew

Last night my friend Bboots and her lovely family joined us for a casual family dinner on the deck. Our friends don't live extraordinarily close by and it is always a treat when we get the chance to hang out. I cooked up a batch of Cincinnati 5-way chili and decided this is pretty much the perfect meal to cook when there are picky eaters in the crowd.

The chili itself has a unique flavor profile featuring cinnamon, chocolate, and allspice and is traditionally served over spaghetti for a classic 2-way. To make the chili an official 5-way you top it all off with cheese, kidney beans, and onions. Accompaniments include hot sauce, oyster crackers, and mini hot dogs in buns. A fun build your own meal!

Emma and Finn have known kids in the Bboots crew for nearly four years and they were both excited to have their friends over for the evening. JBcoolcat also stopped by to hang out with her ballet buddies.

We sat on the deck long enough for the twinkle lights to sparkle in the dark and we laughed and chatted the evening away. Although our guests didn't stay until the candles burned out they stayed a bit longer than they had intended and we were very glad they did!
Thanks for fine evening!

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Nothing draws the attention of Lucy and Java more than bringing out a bowl of popcorn!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Wait Wait...

It really doesn't feel like a Saturday morning to me if I don't listen to Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me on NPR. I am usually cooking or cleaning while I listen to the "oddly informative news quiz" and for that hour time passes quickly and with much laughter. Emma and Finn gave me tickets to see a taping of the show for Mother's Day and tonight Leif and I headed down to the Chase Auditorium Theater to take in the sights behind the sounds.

All I can say is this was one great gift and the cast does not disappoint! Of course the host and Oak Parker, Peter Sagal is just hilarious; his quick wit and healthy banter makes the show. Announcer Carl Kasell was "gone fishin'" and replaced by the capable Corey Flintoff. The panel rotates and tonight featured Roy Blount Jr., Amy Dickinson, and my favorite Iron Chef judge, Mo Rocca. Roy has impeccable timing, Amy is animated, and Mo...well he is just too funny for words. The crew taped the show in about two hours and we were honestly belly laughing at every turn. The crew seemed very excited about their call in guest, pro surfer Kelly Slater and although he talked a big game...let's just say he didn't pull out a win during his section of the quiz called "Not My Job". In a week when health care, Kanye West, Serena Williams, and urine in space were top news stories you know there had to be funny moments on the horizon!

Even though there were 500 people in the theater the entire evening felt very intimate...personally I just loved holding Leif's hand!
In Chicago, the show will air on NPR this Saturday at 10am...I am anxious to see how it is edited.
Thanks Emma and Finn...I had a great time!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Real Numbers

I am currently open to various forms of penance.

I have never considered myself very good at math.

Tonight, in an effort to overcome my own stupidity, I embraced 7th grade algebra.

Let me be clear I don't want to help Emma with her math...ever. To me, middle school algebra homework is no more than a swirling sea of numbers and symbols and letters solely designed to make me look dumber than my daughter. It is a blessing and a curse to have a kid who pretty much came out of the womb smarter than I am. I know at any moment she could realize this fact and I am not trying to hurry that up AT ALL. Of course she may have already deduced her intellectual superiority and is just too smart to say anything. Either way I am not trying to put myself in any precarious positions in that regard; I typically stick to the stuff I know.

My own math weakness is one of the many reasons I have Leif. He went to business school at University of Chicago for all the right reasons...professional advancement, social net working, and of course because it was his life long goal. I mean, duh, isn't it yours? Once while I was dusting I glanced at some of his homework and I pretty much had to sniff the Pledge just to get the icky visions out of my head. Personally, I am thrilled he went to school just so I can keep up my mom charade and never have to face math homework unless he goes out of town. On those rare occasions Leif is unavailable in this essential capacity I phone a friend or consult my trusted kid math for grown-ups book.

Tonight, however, I helped Emma tackle her math homework while Leif was home. Against my better judgement, I added and subtracted real numbers. I determined absolute value and faced both decimals and fractions of opposite signs. I found my way to three basic algebra websites, referenced my trusted math manual, and read all the applicable lessons in Emma's text book. I think I helped her, but I didn't enjoy it.

The simple fact is I did something really stupid and unintentionally mean today. I thought if I did something uncomfortable I would feel a little I exposed a little weakness and subjected myself to a little bit of scrutiny. I created my own equation and considered absolute zero. And while this may not make sense to you, as dumb as I can be, I feel just a little bit smarter.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Words cannot express how shocked I was to end up at the U2 360 concert tonight let alone in these simply astounding seats! B and A of the Pfour stunned us with the last minute gift of SECOND ROW tickets at Soldier Field and honestly the experience left me speechless and feeling alive in the best way imaginable!


2.No Line On The Horizon
3.Get On Your Boots
5.Beautiful Day / King Of Pain (snippet) / Blackbird (snippet)
6.I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
8.Your Blue Room
9.Unknown Caller
10.Until The End Of The World
11.Stay (Faraway, So Close!)
12.The Unforgettable Fire
13.City Of Blinding Lights
15.I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight / I Want To Take You Higher (snippet)
16.Sunday Bloody Sunday / Rock The Casbah (snippet)
18.Walk On
19.One / Amazing Grace (snippet)
20.Where The Streets Have No Name / All You Need Is Love (snippet)


21. Ultra Violet (Light My Way)
22. With Or Without You
23. Moment of Surrender

For Mel...Sunday Bloody Sunday and for Leif...Beautiful Day.

This was a night we will not soon forget.
B and A, thanks to You Two for U2.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Two New Apps

This afternoon I put together a spread of appetizers for a local board social and I have to admit my two new inspirations were my favorite dishes of the day. The first, pictured above, is a Greek pork on pita. Fennel and garlic roasted pork tenderloin sits atop a roasted red pepper hummus covered grilled pita. Red onions, tomatoes in Greek yogurt, Feta, Oregano and cilantro complete the dish. Yum.

For my second dish I took my favorite Puttanesca and transformed it into a bruschetta. Parmigiano Reggiano and crispy basil leaves were the perfect finishing touch!

Friday, September 11, 2009


Last night a group of Day Nursery board members attended the Voices for Illinois Children Kids Count Awards Dinner at the Hyatt down town. Thanks to MA for her generous invitation. The evening honored the Steans Family for their work with children in North Lawndale and Govenor Pat Quinn was was a notable speaker. The highlight by far, however, was a performance by the memorable South Shore Drill Team! Established in 1980 as an alternative to gang activity the drill team now has more than 300 members. Of these members over 99% graduate from highschool and nearly all of those graduates go onto college. What a great outcome for kids facing some pretty adverse circumstances.
It seems to me Voices raised a good deal of money last night and will put it great use.
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