Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday Spaghetti

This afternoon we headed deep into the suburbs to recapture a little Nutcracker magic!
Bboots and I met while her daughter and Emma were dolls in the Nutcracker. Now nearly five years later we have a descent history and a sincere ease between our families. Who would have thought two young girls could bring two families together? Bboots is by far one of the best gifts Emma has ever given me and spending time with her delightful family is always a joy!

This evening they served us a hearty spaghetti and meatball dinner with the most amazing bread! You know you are in for a good evening when your hosts keep things as casual and comfortable as possible and dough is rising on the counter when you arrive. I swear all four of us have been saying how hungry we have been for spaghetti and meatballs! Let me tell you, this was the best way imaginable to address a pasta craving. A little wine, a couple of cheeses, easy conversation, a meatball or two, a comfy couch, and marshmallows by the doesn't get much better than that.

We all hated to see this cozy evening come to an end.

Bibbity Bobbity Boo!

Photo Credit Herbert Migdoll

The Joffrey Ballet

Cinderella: Victoria Jaiani
The Prince: Miguel Angel Blanco
Cinderella's Stepsisters: David Gombert, Michael Smith
The Fairy Godmother: April Daly
The Jester: Derrick Agnoletti

The Fairy Spring: Allison Walsh
The Fairy Summer: Christine Rocas
The Fairy Autumn: Amber Neumann
The Fairy Winter: Valerie Robin

Photo Credit Herbert Migdoll

As we headed to the theater last night Emma and I were fairly certain nothing the Joffrey Ballet would offer up could top their beautifully tragic production of Othello in October.
We were right, but the production of Sir Frederick Ashton's Cinderella we saw last night honestly came as close as anything could have. I felt wrapped up in the familiarity of the fairy tale and simply treasured the fact my daughter spent the better part of a beautiful evening at the ballet with her head resting on my shoulder as we watched a glittering gorgeous happily ever after.

It had been years since I had taken in a full length ballet that was filled with tutus, giant sets, and an honest to goodness corps de ballet of twinkling stars. The company is clearly gaining strength and, while the ballet was littered with lighthearted and welcomed humor, the dancers were technically sound and performing with a magical ease.
Victoria Jaiani embodied the childhood heroine, Cinderella, with a delicate combination of innocence and confidence. She is a pure ballerina and was more than deserving of each of her grand entrances.
The fairies of the four seasons were Emma's favorites of the evening...she was particularly enchanted with nineteen year old newcomer Amber Neumann as autumn and the sprightly and strong, Allison Walsh as spring.
We are already looking forward to Eclectica in May! I would urge anyone to purchase season tickets for the coming season.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


Each year the student body of Irving honors one staff member with a pie in the face at the school's annual fun fair. Staff members nominate themselves for this opportunity and students drop money into the jar of the person they think deserves the splat in the face most.
Today the highest honors went to Ms. Johnson the school secretary! She put on quite a show and the contest raised nearly $600 this year.
It is a pretty huge compliment from the students to get the pie in the face...although I think there is some pretty big money moving among the staff, too!

Ras Dashen

Penny planned a "for no reason surprise" for her husband Chris last night! Chris had been trying to get a large group of us to go to Ras Dashen for Ethiopian comfort food for quite some time now, but scheduling the outing had become quite tricky. Penny arranged a date that worked for all of us and didn't tell Chris we were meeting him there!
How fun is that?
I had never eaten Ethiopian food before and maiden culinary voyages are few and far between for me these days. Consequently, I had been looking forward to our outing tremendously! I was genuinely surprised by by the richness of some of the dishes and loved the communal dining style. Ethiopian meals begin with the traditional breaking of the injera (thin sourdough flat bread) and sharing food from a common plate signifies the bonds of friendship.
The injera is used in place of utensils; small pieces of bread are used to pick up bites of food seasoned with niter kibbeh (butter flavored with garlic, ginger, onions and other spices) and berbere (a spicy red paste). My favorite dish of the evening was the national dish of Ethiopia. Doro Wat is a stewed chicken dish with egg in a berbere sauce...divine. Although the cuisine is high on spice and flavor it seems the experience is more about family table traditions than anything else. If you create a bite for someone else at the table and place it in their mouth it is called a goorsha...the bigger the goorsha the stronger the friendship!
What an absolutely perfect cuisine to enjoy among the best of friends!
Ras Dashen
5846 N Broadway
Chicago, IL 60660

Friday, February 26, 2010

Under the Ginko Tree

We've lived in Oak Park for about a decade and I thought I knew every nook and cranny of the village, but apparently I was wrong. I agreed to cater a friend's wedding receoption in May and this home is the venue for the ceremony and the reception. Under the Ginko Tree is a bed & breakfast located on the 300 Block of North Kenilworth and I had never heard a word about it before today. The bride and I met with the warm and inviting inn owner, Gloria, and took a tour. The home is quirky and homespun and gorgeous. Gloria has owned the home for thirty-five years, raised her family there, and converted it to a B&B nineteen years ago. She is confident the home is protected by good spirits...and I left believing she was right!

I think it will be a lovely event.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Tonight was one of those crazy homework nights.
Emma had an assignment for Social Studies that opened up a big can of worms.
She had to answer the question: Is America a democracy?
Needless to say we prodded her into thinking beyond the obvious yes and she eventually decided we have are living in democratic republic. She was a typing machine!
Meanwhile, Finn was finishing up a big project on Tennessee, putting the finishing touches on his art sketches, and mastering fractions.
Everyone was spread out all over the house exclaiming things like, "The tulip poplar is the state tree of Tennessee!" and "John Adams thought all democracies were destined to fail!" and I was overseeing the whole thing while pinned in a corner folding laundry.

Little Laundry Lu had to bury her head in the clean clothes just to block out all the chaos!
I think every student in this house went to bed a little smarter than when they woke up.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Man & Woman's Room

I have had a concern about my marriage for quite sometime now.
Leif has pretty much stopped using the bathroom off our bedroom.
He doesn't even keep a toothbrush up there anymore.
He opts instead to use the downstairs bathroom for all of his hygiene needs and let me be clear, this is a room that has been overtaken by our children.
This kind of drives me crazy.
I finally asked him about it while we were snuggled up in bed.

Mel: I think our marriage is falling apart.
Leif: What?
Mel: We are practically leading separate lives.
Leif: How so?
Mel: You don't use our bathroom anymore. I half expect to find a mattress in the bathtub downstairs so you can start sleeping in there.

After he stopped laughing he explained that his bathroom behavior had nothing to do with me and everything to do with product placement.

The Listerine is downstairs.
The Eucerin is downstairs.
His face soap is down stairs.

Well today he found this waiting for him...
I included a note that reads:

This is your OFFICIAL welcome back to our bathroom kit!!
I hope you'll find everything you need to feel comfortable in this room once again.
I have included Band-Aids in case of injuries caused by your re-entry.
Hopefully we'll be able to enjoy countless hours of mindless banter in this tiny little room as a result of this sundry purchase. I am looking forward to spitting in unison!

When I indicated I had left a gift for him upstairs it took Leif a while to find it because, ironically, it didn't occur to him to look for it in the bathroom.
Looks like I addressed this just in the nick of time...phew!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Audition Day

Emma to a master class at Ballet Chicago this afternoon in hopes of earning a merit scholarship to Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp this summer. Ballet Chicago recently moved into the old Joffrey studios and today Emma danced in the same room she auditioned for her very first Nutcracker. She certainly appeared confident before the start of class and came out grinning ear to ear. I think she is looking forward to summer more than ever!

Torture for Gold?

Finn has a new Olympic event in mind...

"You know Mom, I was thinking about waterboarding. I've heard about that before and I am pretty sure they should make it a summer Olympic sport. I mean if they have snowboarding in the winter; it only makes sense they would have waterboarding in the summer, right?"

*Finn really wasn't advocating for the IOC to turn torture into a sanctioned Olympic Sport...he had heard the word waterboarding before, but confused it with surfing in the moment. :-)

Friday, February 19, 2010

First Arabesque

Wall Worthy

I absolutely adore my wall of menus in my kitchen!
I was especially delighted to hang Alinea's tasting menu this week!
I am already plotting out my next foodie adventure...
I think it might have to be The French Laundry!
If I have to stay local, Schwa has moved to the top of my list of wall worthy meals.
I can't wait to see what menu makes it up there next!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Working Dinner

Tonight was all about feeding someone, but it was about far more than food.
It was about marketing the stay at home mom.
It is far easier than you might think.
I stayed out of the way as much as possible and let Leif work his resume building magic.
I was in the kitchen, of course, providing a five course dinner for our gorgeous guest.
The evening was delightful and so was this dish...
...sesame lime crusted salmon with daikon cucumber relish.
Oddly enough this was my sleeper dish of the night. I already had the salmon and just paired it with flavors I enjoy. Honestly, the plate was a little selfish, but before I knew it the dish I had given the least thought turned out to be the highlight of our meal.
Sometimes you just have to believe in yourself and understand you are capable of delivering more than you ever thought possible.
Are you listening Jules?
Because we believe in you.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Stew on Tuesday.

This evening we enjoyed a lovely beef stew with three of the Pfour!
It is always a delight to spend time with them...they make a Tuesday night feel like a special occasion!
Thanks for joining us and overlooking the fact I failed to honor the all food themes Fat Tuesday brings with it!

Putting the polish on.

Any good parent knows, you can't force your child to like something and that goes for beets, the Wizard of Oz, bike riding and everything in between. Leif and I adore watching the Olympics and we pretty much adjust our evening schedule to accommodate taking in the coverage. To be perfectly honest, Emma and Finn didn't seem to have the Olympic spirit...let's say they appeared mildly interested at best...until last night...
(Jamie Squire/Getty Images via nbcolympics)

...snowboard cross did the trick!
Emma and Finn were totally riveted to the competition and it was a joy to watch it with them both.

Their sudden interest in the coverage made me realize just how tempered my enthusiasm for the games has been this year. The loss of Georgian luger, Nodar Kumaritashvili, before the start of the games literally stunned me and admittedly sapped my free flowing love for the games. The incident left me asking all kinds of questions about who is ultimately responsible for ensuring the safety of these fearless and at times reckless athletes. Just because a person can build a track that hurls folks down an ice chute at faster and faster speeds, does that mean they should? There were twelve crashes during practice runs and none since the course was adjusted, but officials maintain the course was tweaked out of sensitivity to the emotions of the athletes. Huh? Basically, I am mourning a young stranger who literally died in pursuit of a dream and trying to make sense of the very public way he perished.
The whole thing tarnished the medals so to speak.

Last night while we were whooping and hollering for those speedy snowboarders all the controversy fell away for just a moment and Finn innocently commented, "You know I never want anyone to get hurt, but I love the crashes. They make it all more exciting. I mean, it really isn't the Olympics with out the crashes is it?"
And you know what?
He is right; risk is part of any sport and without the risk there would be no joy.
I love all that "thrill of victory and agony of defeat" stuff!

While I still firmly believe there are big lessons to be learned from the incident on the luge track, I am grateful Finn took a moment to put it all in perspective for me. It is okay to take a thrill in the risk...I am not watching to see if someone dies; I am watching to see people living their dream.
Time to polish the medals.
Now, if some one throws a bucket of red paint on figure skater Johnny Wier, tonight I am not sure what my reaction will be, but I am sure to watch it all unfold...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

For my Valentines

Tonight I cooked dinner for my three Valentines...I love them a lot, but I cooked them something little...a micro surf and turf...

Grilled grass fed beef, seared scallop, crayfish, beurre rouge, roasted cremini and tomato, minted peas, and roasted tri color potatoes.

I love how the sweet peas put the scale of the dish in perspective.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Chicago French Market

Rather unexpectedly we ended up at the Chicago French Market today!
Enjoy Emma's images of our afternoon...

The market is located in Chicago's west loop at 131 North Clinton.
Check it out soon and go hungry!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Times Change...

I was reading through the Huff Post this morning and had a good chuckle over their collection of vintage ads. I looked for a few more and hope you enjoy them as much as I did...

Text reads: By the way, Mom, when it comes to toddlers- if they liked to be coaxed to drink their milk, try this: add 7-Up to the milk in equal parts, pouring the 7-Up gently into the milk. It’s a wholesome combination- and it works!

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