Friday, July 30, 2004

Oh-oh New England...

Well I'm back east for the next month or so.  My plans include relaxing, sleeping, cooking, running, and practicing French.  The first two I should have no trouble with, the third I'll do at least 3 or 4 times, and the last two might require a bit more self-discipline.  But above all, I'll be savoring hills, seafood, and the knowledge that I am teetering on the edge of a continent instead of lodged firmly in the middle. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Burying the Brewers

Well, somewhere along the way, I became a Cubs fan.  There I was last night, in one of Alex's tee-shirts, on my feet, yelling and clapping along with most of the rest of the crowd at "Wrigley North" (a.k.a. Miller Park) as the Cubs pulled ahead in the eighth last night. 

Last night's game lacked the fireworks of the prior week's game, but boy do they put on a show in Milwaukee.  I guess I was supposed to be most thrilled by the great sausage race, which is the Brewers' version of the Yankees' subway race, except in Milwaukee people dressed in huge tube-like costumes that only vaguely resemble a hot dog or bratwurst race down the third base line.  The "Polish" won, which didn't seem to surprise anyone, I guess because he has the best record this reason.  These mid-westerners sure take their sausage seriously.

Anyway, what struck me as the biggest differences between Miller Park and Wrigley were the loud, in-your-face music blasted between every batter and the enormous jumbotron up above the outfield.  I'd put Yankee Stadium somewhere in the middle, not quite as old-fashioned and strictly authentic as Wrigley but not as brash and brassy as Miller Park.  I must admit that it is nice to be able to watch the replay of any close call in near life-size right after the play. 

The Cubs may still be ten games behind St. Louis, but they're only two games out of the Wild Card spot.   And tonight they're leading Milwaukee 2-0 at the top of the first...

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Kids in the Kitchen

I've resisted posting recipes so far because this is really supposed to be a weblog filled with interesting stories about my life and not one of helpful household hints.  But I've been puttering around doing decidely uninteresting things aside from cooking, so this is what you get.

Today for lunch I decided to toss some ingredients together and hope for the best.  Often, putting random foods together that I like doesn't seem to result in the delicious concoction I hope it will.  In many cases, the whole is much LESS than the sum of its parts.  However, today's lunch was an exception.

Without further ado...

Chicken, Zucchini, and Fennel a la Hoisin

For the chicken:
1 boneless skinless chicken breast
1/2 zucchini, sliced into thin rounds
1/2 small fennel bulb, sliced thinly
1 small piece of ginger
1 T sesame seeds
cooking spray

Heat a frying pan over medium heat and spray with cooking spray.  Throw in the chicken, zucchini, fennel, and ginger and cook at least until the chicken is cooked through or as long as you want to get everything nice and brown.  Sprinkle the sesame seeds in near the end so they don't burn.

For the sauce:
(please use your own disgression when interpreting the unconventional measurement system used below)
1 big dallop BBQ sauce
1 little dallop hoisin sauce
a few dashes soy sauce
a few dashes rice wine vinegar

Mix all ingredients together and microwave, covered, for about 45 seconds just to warm up the sauce so it doesn't go on your hot chicken icy cold (which it will be when you make it since the BBQ sauce and the hoisin sauce live in the fridge.)

I seasoned the whole shebang with salt and pepper just before eating it. 
I am now firmly of the opinion that you could mix fennel and hoisin sauce with cardboard and it would taste good.  I think I'll try the combination next with tofu as the protein, a substance some might be hard pressed to consider a close relative to cardboard (which is just not true.)

So happy cooking, bon appetit, and sweet dreams to all.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Half-Assed Shopping at Whole Foods

Since I now have several devoted Blog readers out there, I'll have to start writing longer, more substantial posts.  So here goes...

This morning I ventured out of the Franke apartment into the pre-dawn light of 10:45 a.m.  I was headed northeast to the gourmand's mecca, Whole Foods (a.k.a. "Whole Paycheck," a term coined by a co-worker of mine).  En route (see?  I'm practicing my French), I stumbled across the live filming of some... thing (movie? TV show? commercial?).  Of course, the intersection was totally blocked off by teenage guys wearing security tee-shirts and trying to look tough, but you could get still get a good look-see at what was going on.  I couldn't get close enough to see any famous people (ooo!  celebs!) but I did see a lot of extras standing around in disco-era bellbottoms and fringed vests.  Evidently, an empty lot had been morphed into a used car dealership circa 1974.  I even got to hear someone yell, "Action!"

I didn't stay long though.  I'm not one of those people who gawks and stares in situations like that, at least not unselfconsciously.  Besides, I had money to throw away.

So I spent about a half hour roaming the aisles at Whole Foods, sampling black bean dip and "good for you" chocolate gooey things.  I bought fennel (my new favorite root vegetable), olives, and apricots for a tart I'm going to make.  I also filled a plastic container with yummy nibbles from the salad bar: cilantro and lemon tofu, chunks of roasted sweet potatoes, and those little crunchy sesame nugget things you get in bar snack mixes sometimes, among other things. 

But here's where the half-assedness comes in.  I just couldn't bring myself to buy the rest of the stuff on my list at Whole Paycheck.  For goodness sakes, I'm not even getting a paycheck right now, and the one I will be getting come September will hardly support a Whole Foods habit.  So I moseyed on down State St. to the Jewel-Osco and picked up my milk, coffee, soda, and toilet paper at the regularly overpriced city supermarket.

I was quite a sight, schlepping back home with a 12-pack of two-ply "bath tissue" dangling from one fist and a few 10-lb. bags loaded down with heavy liquid products (see above) in the other.  But I made it back alive and now this weekend's houseguests won't have to go outside and gather handfuls of leaves to take with them into the bathroom.  And later on, as I dined on my purchases, I enjoyed every last penny's worth of tofu and sesame nuggets.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Hot Town, Summer in the City

So this is what it's like to live in a city during the height of the heat and humidty of the summer.  Actually, I shouldn't complain.  I've spent most of the past few days indoors in well-chilled, climate-controlled environments, which, as has been discussed, seem to make the natural environment harder to bear.

This morning's run was an exercise in restraint.  By crawling along at a slow and steady jog, I could regulate my body temperature and prevent myself from boiling over by attempting to produce heat at the same rate that my body could expel it.  It worked for the limited amount of time I spent outside running, but I'm pretty glad that the temperature is supposed to drop about 15 degrees by this weekend, when I'll be cranking out a 16-miler.

In other news, Baker leaves tomorrow.  All four Frankes and I ate dinner at a small but very nice restaurant on the north side called Lucca's.  I had stuffed pork tenderloin with spaghetti squash, which I think is a vastly under-rated squash.  Perhaps I'll have to make some for myself in the coming weeks. 

Oh Boy, LaTroy!

Now that my interest in baseball has been (slightly) piqued, I found myself enthralled as I watched (the replay of) LaTroy Hawkins being dragged from the field this afternoon.  Apparently, he and the home plate ump disagreed on the location of the strike zone. 

Aside from LaTroy's dramatic exit, the rest of the game was a disaster.  The Cubs blew a huge lead and are now 10 games out of first place.  This is why I'm going to have to stay a Yankees fan for at least a little while longer.  We're 7 up on Boston!

Oh, and by the way, I now believe that the contest for most annoying regional accent is a toss up between the Bawston accent and the Chic-eeeh-go one.  I'd take a good ol' New York accent over either one any day.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Cardinals 5 Cubs 4

So the Cubs lost.  But the game was well worth attending.  Baker bought a score card, and I actually scored most of the game, adding a few special touches where I saw fit.  Scott Rolen became Scott Rolen Rollin' Rollin' and I even invented a code for what happened in the ever-so-entertaining eighth inning: UHMP (OUCH), which stands for "Ump Hit in Man Region (OUCH)." 

And I'm sticking to my theory that Zambrano intentionally hit Jim Edmonds a second time so that he could leave the game.  The ump barely had his thumb up in the air by the time Zambrano had left the mound.
All that and a bench-clearing brawl (well, without the brawl) makes for a good time at the ballpark as I see it.  I think I could get used to this whole baseball thing.  Too bad I have to wait until next Monday to see the Cubs again live (though then we'll be at Miller Park).

Sunday, July 18, 2004

The Lap of Luxury

Tonight I accompanied the Frankes to a barbecue on the top floor of their building.  It was held in a recently renovated apartment with a roof deck facing the street.  Evidently, the unit was totally gutted and redone, floors ripped up, windows replaced, the whole nine yards, at a cost of over $1 million.
Now, the minute I walked into the Frankes, I was awed by their luxurious and cavernous loft, but apartment 6B was straight out of a magazine.  It had waxed cherry floors throughout, which, before installation, would cost nearly $30,000.  Not a big deal, Baker pointed out, for people willing to spend more than that on the pair of plasma TV's they had in their living room and upper den (which was also newly constructed essentially on the roof.)
It's hard to imagine living in those lush surroundings.  All Baker and I could think about is the panic you'd feel every time sometime set foot in your home since you'd paid $10.00 per square foot for your floor, which, by waxing instead of finishing with polyurethane, you left completely vulnerable to destruction by a drop of water or a few grains of salt.  I'm not quite sure it'd be worth it.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

The Suburbs

Today Baker and I ventured west to an area near Elgin through which runs a very long bike trail.  We parked next to a little park where a shoddy collection of "antiques" and other completely useless junk was being sold at an outdoor flea market type situation.  The morning was damp and cloudy (by now the sun has come out) so we set out on a nearly empty path, me on foot and Baker on wheels. 
This week was a "step back week" for me in my marathon training, so I only had to do ten miles today.  Baker's goal was to ride for two and a half hours and see how much mileage he could cover (43 miles today, as it turns out.) 
I thought the path was great.  No stopping at crosswalks, with views of the Fox River every so often and verdant foliage lining the trail.  I reached the halfway point in my run smack in front of a gas station, which had a bathroom free for any and all to use.  Thus refreshed, I turned around and headed back.  And ten miles seems short when last week you had to do 15.
The airplane hangar that was the Ikea store in Schaumberg was more disappointing.  It was mobbed, prompting me to pronounce it the Costco of cheap Swedish furniture stores.  And the baskets which I was seeking for my wire shelves were not, in fact, nearly as cheap as I hoped they'd be.  So forget that.  We cut our losses and headed back to the city.

Friday, July 16, 2004

The Container Store

Oh, the wonderland that is The Container Store, a mid-western establishment that promises to de-clutter and in the process improve the overall quality of your life.  Upon first entering, you walk around wide-eyed, imagining the glorious state of organization in which you'd live if only you bought one of every product.   It's quite intoxicating, which is why I'm proud for having left the store with my wallet only $270 lighter than it was when I came in.
Before you scoff and roll your eyes, concluding that I was sucked in by the clever marketing strategy, consider this:  I bought 3 substantial pieces of furniture with which I will furnish my entire room in my new apartment, along with my futon.  I got a 5' high, black, commercial-grade, metal wire bookshelf (with 4 shelves); a simple black desk (at a slim 24" wide, so it will fit perfectly at the end of bed, right in front of my window); and a set of plastic drawers on wheels, to fit in my closet and act as a "dresser" of sorts.
So I think I scored a great deal.  And I can bring it all down to Hyde Park next week and tuck it in a corner (the roommates said it'd be OK to do that) so it will be all ready to assemble when I move in at the beginning of September.
Plus, I am working on a deal with Dave, a fellow Amherst '02 rower who is moving out to Chicago as well in mid-August, to buy some space in his U-haul.  Keep your fingers crossed for me; I really want to get my futon - not to mention the rest of my clothes - out here somehow.  I'm going to need those wool sweaters in a few months...

Thursday, July 15, 2004


Tonight Baker and I made three-cheese ravioli.  It was our second attempt to create these luscious cheese-filled pockets of pasta, into which we placed one basil leaf each (or none or 2) for aesthetic appeal.
We discovered that rolling out pasta is quite difficult without a pasta machine.  Even the crank version (one of which we have at home and another of which I gave Baker as a present a while back) renders the dough much thinner in much less time.  As a result, our hand-rolled ravioli was a little tough.
Still, it was fun to make and fun to eat.  If only making delicious food like this from scratch weren't so exhausting...

Millennium Park

Millennium Park, composed of a new garden, several sculptures, and a Frank Gehry - designed outdoor concert shell, is having its grand opening this weekend. Like the new Soldier Field, where the Bears play, many of the sculptures smack of alien spacecraft, but the Gehry complex is pretty amazing. Like most Gehry constructs, it looks like a series of overlapping curved sheets of tinfoil.

Jay (Franke) has tickets to the taping of "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me," the NPR quiz show, at this curvy silver band shell, the Jay (Pritzker) pavilion, on Sunday morning. There are a host of other events, the schedule of which, along with an interactive tour, can be viewed here.

As for me, I'm not sure how much I'll participate in the hub-bub. I attempted to take part in the Taste of Chicago a few weeks ago and found myself overwhelmed by the masses of people. Instead, Baker and I might spend some time in the lovely suburban oasis of Schaumberg, Illinois, navigating the giant Ikea out there and checking out the bike paths.


Here is how to create a comment for any one of my posts...

Underneath the post, there is the phrase "# comments" in which # represents the number of comments that have already been submitted regarding that particular post.

Put your mouse over the "# comments" and you'll see that the phrase is a link. Click on it.

When you do, you'll be taken to a new screen where you'll see the post, any comments already posted, and below, a link titled "Post a Comment." Click on it.

And comment away...

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Bastille Day

C'est le quatorze juillet, le jour de la Bastille!

Baker and I are planning to go to Brasserie Jo to join the rowdy French crowd in celebrating the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille and to hopefully catch a glimpse of today's mountain stage of the Tour de France.

Welcome to Dana In Chicago!

I decided to create this weblog to post stories, information, and hopefully pictures from my first few months in Chicago. You can check this website often to see what I'm up to here in the windy city.