A Lesson Learned 'round the Turkey Table


My mom has something against my boobs.

I mean, say what you will about my character. Frown at the unladylike and awesomely sarcastic comments I throw at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (I'm looking at you, Boys Like Girls. Goddamn you just make it so easy with that haircut.) Glare at me across the room when I pepper my smack talk with mild curses at the annual Erin's family UNO tournament. Relegate me to stirring gravy after bemoaning my cooking skills. But do not - do NOT - insult the girls.

I'm not joking. 3 days of getting my shirt tugged on to cover the barest hint of decollotage had me alarmed that some sort of reverse Electra complex was at work here. Or worse yet, that my mom was making a religious commitment to modesty in honor of the pilgrims. I was silently banned (you have no idea what my mom can convey with her eyeballs) from crossing my arms because some sort of lift & seperate action would be triggered and cleavage would be revealed, inevitably.

It's taken years to get these things where I want them to be, and I won't apologize. Though blooming late is certainly responsible for this excellent personality I have, it didn't do much for the old self-esteem back in the day. So now that I'm feeling (too?) good about this issue, let's not take me down a few pegs. And, the more I witness the mind-addling side effects of menopause, the more convinced I am that it's better to abandon ship at 40.

...And that's just one of the many delightful lessons I received while at the ol' homestead for a few days. Oh Thanksgiving, you are without a doubt my least favorite holiday.

Thank You, Thank You


Ah, Thanksgiving! The time of year when I get to swallow not only my body weight in sweet potatoes (with the family looking disapprovingly on) but also my pride. I can get all soft and squishy about the things I'm grateful for and no one can say anything about it. Plus, the food coma usually kicks in shortly after my emotional outburst of the day. Feelings? Without consequence?!

Thank you:

1. Scrabble on Facebook. Decreasing my productivity at work by 1000%, but increasing my overall satisfaction with sitting at a desk all day. Also, expanding my vocabulary with trial & error words like "wangled" and "nixie." As in, "I wangled my way into that nixie's fantasy pants."

2. TBS for putting The Office on for 3 hours a night. JIM. Everytime I decide to turn on the TV.

3. My impending layoff, for getting me motivated to find another job, though it my just be another big soul-suck. I'll take my chances, and a few unemployment checks too.

4. Boat Captains. Future profession?

5. An amazing term at school that reestablished my confidence in my work. It is right and good that I'm doing what I'm doing, though...more school? On to an MFA? Delay my life a little bit more? I will take the American Literary Canon by storm...one day.

6. The impending education of my youngest brother in the ways of The Pixies and 30 Rock. Holy shit, I have only hours to accomplish this, but I will succeed. Commence indoctrination!

7. Technology, though grudgingly. Back on the Facebook bandwagon, Twitter, etc. I'm turning into just another social media whore. But this turn of events has rendered some good, from the obvious "getting back in touch with lost friends" stuff to discovering the naughty potential of Skype. The tiny eyes of Jesus on the crucifix above the dinner table this Thanksgiving will burn straight into my black, unrepentant soul. What Grandma? You want to read my novel outline? With the homeless chick giving a blow j? Well sure! Note the dog-eared pages, where the sexiest stuff happens.

7. Lastly, to my urban family. The last year has been a bit of a soap opera in the best and worst ways - weddings, break-ups, moving in, moving out, deaths, babies, disownings, scary diseases, losing jobs, trips, risks, etc. But nary a betrayal. If I had to put my heart through this paper shredder o' life all on my own, God only knows what kind of human wreckage we'd have on our hands. We chose each other, most importantly, and I wouldn't change it.

Tryptophan - activate!

Why I'm a Hipster #2


Reason #2: I really love music. I really do. And the music that I love should be loved by everybody because it's that good. I'm not one of those people that throws out the overused "they're early stuff was better" rebuttals, contrary to what some would have you believe. I'm just passionate about discovering a new sound, listening to a perfectly constructed album, showing up at a concert and dancing my inhibited white girl dance for awhile before the beer kicks in and I do my uninhibited white girl dance. So yeah, I see how me getting drunk and lauding the many glorious works of Dan Auerbach all over your face might make you think I'm a hipster. Maybe. But I won't stop. Dan Auerbach is the beardy god of soul. Listen.

Here in the city I've reached the Golden Age of my concert-going. I have the means to spend a little too much on tickets and I have so many shows at my fingertips any day of the week. In a place where it's easy to get lonely and easier to just melt into your coffin-sized apartment, there are places to go and feel something extreme.

So call me a hipster. I will not be ashamed of preaching just how fucking much the Pixies rocked a few days ago. (Rocked so much, in fact, that I've been wearing the tshirt for something like 4 days now and blathered at a Trader Joe's cashier about the details of the concert well after my transaction was completed.) And I will also not be ashamed to tell you that you should be going to see Brighton MA play at Lincoln Hall tonight. Do it. I know what's good for you.

Oh, and please accept my gift of a playlist. It's been a beautiful lazy weekend. Folk Lite.

Meat Candy


There have been a lot of questionable products married with bacon. Bacon Vodka. Bacon Jelly Beans. Bacon Air Freshener. (speaking of, one of these should be floating around my apartment...) But here is one that is oh-so-right: Jalapeno Bacon.

A) You can eat it.

B) You can eat it and not gag, as the jelly beans proved can actually happen when something is supposed to taste like bacon but merely imitates it poorly. There is an Uncanny Valley for bacon taste; who knew?
C) You can eat it for under $10 at T's and then get hammered on their miraculously cheap booze.
D) It's spicy bacon people; I don't have to explain myself any further.


Red Red Wine


I'm on a roll with the posts this month. And no, it's not because I enjoy this with all my heart. It's because there is a grade contingent on my compulsive internet usage. And you thought you were special.

We here at TWSSC have a great fondness for alcohol. Most of our waking hours are dedicated to learning it's ways. So when I saw this, I nearly wept with joy. Who knew so much could be gained by watching anything posted on YouTube? (See the magic around :55!)

Get this man a medal.

That's What She Said


Debating what time I should drive into the Loop to pick up some plants, while Megan was at work or after, I say to her: I just think it makes more sense for me to come when you get off.

Slam dunk. That's one for the record books. Also, it's a fitting introduction for this commercial I saw in my ad class tonight:

Evidence to the Contrary #1


Reason Why I May be Categorized as a Hipster #1: I attended a small liberal arts college. And I have not one but TWO majors the world at large deems useless: Creative Writing & Studio Art (focus in painting, bitches!). Do you know how many years I suffered the "You gonna work at a McDonalds with that there learnin? I'll take fries with that! Hyuk Hyuk! Supersize me! HYUK!" joke? Do you know how many punches I withheld?

And it doesn't stop there. I'm halfway thru my Masters program. In writing. The head shaking at the dinner table around Thanksgiving...the glazing over of eyeballs when I refute Dan Brown... The internal self-loathing at Starbucks today when I recognized the trochaic tetrameter and delightful rhyme scheme of my order: TRI-ple GRAN-de NON-fat LAT-te. I gave a lecture in my head about prosody walking down the street, reminding myself all the time that if I was going to be accepted as a normal human being, I could never utter this lecture to another living human being.

so i might be a hipster. and i'm not proud of it.

Reasons Why I Am Not A Hipster #1, #2


Some backstory: For weeks now I've been trying to defend myself against a constant onslaught of hipster accusations. When my arguments failed to be accepted by the slanderer, I sought comfort in the opinions of my friends, who turned out to be a pack of Judases. Reader, I cannot stress this enough: I am no such trendy thing. It's a filthy lie. And so, with all the internet as my witness, I unveil a new feature on "That's What She Said": Reasons Why I Am Not A Hipster. I hope you enjoy.

Reason #1: I can easily put my hands in my jean pockets. Even the tightest pair. Suck it, nerds.

Whachu gon' do with all that ass? All that ass inside yo jeans?

Reason #2: Why yes, that was a Black Eyed Peas reference in my blog post. Thanks for noticing.

(Look forward to my companion pieces "Reasons Why I AM A Hipster." Coming soon!)

Get Yourself Together Darlin, Join the Human Race


This dose of daily hell brought to you by the CTA

Chicago is thick with Crazy. Crazy in varieties you never imagined; Crazy you quickly learn to ignore because Crazy pulls punches and usually carries a bottle for smashing and throat cutting. So you do. You act nice and quiet and usually it leaves you alone. Because there is no way to completely avoid it here or anywhere.

The Red Line is a straight line between the extremes of the city (literally running the economic/social/cultural gammut from the cusp of senselessly wealthy Evanston to the bowels of the super impoverished southside, Murder Capital '08 and doing a bang up job this year too) and my/several million people's primary way of getting around. So there is never a shortage of batshit insane.
Going home after work today. On the train, over my shoulder, some fool is shouting gibberish. This is usually what's happening over my shoulder, no big deal. Everyone on the train visibly slouches further, pushes their noses deeper into books, casts their eyes out windows, turns the volume up on their IPods. Because this pained, drunk man can be ignored away if we try hard enough. Then he's hitting on some poor girl. Then he's wailing, over and over, "You've never had an ooooooOOOOrgasmmm" and launching into his qualifications to provide said item. His delivery changes in degrees from flirty (ha.) to adamant to irritated to fucking pissed off. By now, the other passengers are getting restless. The girl has split. At least one old woman abandons the train at the next station. I stay turned away, pretending to read but listening and on edge in case he starts moving from his end of the car to mine. (I took about 2 months of tae kwon doe when I was 10 and I was more impressed with learning how to count in Korean than mastering a round house kick. Skipped the warnings to carry pepper spray too. Haven't figured out if I'm a pacifist or just lazy...) In any case, physical confrontation was going to end badly for me.
The anxiety in these situations is about taking action; the fear is about having to do something in front of all these strangers. Sure, part of you is worried about getting your ass kicked. But its almost taboo to consider doing something outrageous on the train, even in self-defense. It's the unspoken etiquette, and I'm not sure I've ever prescribed to something so powerful without even knowing it. I'm not proud.
A man speaks up, not eloquent, not even loud. He ignores the threats. He ignores this drunk bastard calling him "Nigger," drawling the ugly hard "rrrr" at the end of the word. He even manages to shake this same man's hand right before security comes and escorts him off the train. The man who spoke up mutters something about praying for him. And I'm not even sure I believe there's something to pray too anymore, but I'm impressed. And I'm overwhelmed with respect. And I'm ashamed. And I hate to think of where I misplaced my humanity and courage in the last few years. But today, there was a man on the train smiling quietly to himself as we rode express to Granville. I'm thinking about him, at the end of the day, not about one more amusing/pathetic/sad tantrum thrown on the El.



Hells yes. That was a good day.

comic courtesy xkcd.com

Your Guide to the Perfect Weekend


I discovered something this past summer that changed my life forever. Is that hokey? Sure. Brilliant? Yes. But I deserve some sort of international award for figuring this shit out.

It was Sunday night and the weekend had gone by far too quickly, as usual. However, I realized that I didn’t have the same Sunday anxiety that I normally experience. I tried to piece together why this weekend felt different. I hadn’t done anything spectacularly exciting. And the looming work week wasn’t going to be better than any other. I hadn’t won the lottery or had a massage, but something about how I spent my weekend had calmed my weekly dread that Monday was just hours away.

After I bit more reflection, I realized I had made a momentous discovery, the likes of which should be published and credited to me in every scholarly journal on the planet. I discovered the formula for a truly fulfilling and satisfying weekend. Then I tested it and wrote it down to share, oh so generously, with you lucky bastards.

Step One: Drink.
That’s right, ladies and gentleman, the first and most commonly practiced activity that leads to a fulfilling weekend is getting
fucked up. Plain and simple. I’m not advocating two straight days of drunken shenanigans because then you miss out on the other necessary components, but at least one night of blurry, beer soaked fun is imperative for a person to let off a little steam and take a brief mental vacation from reality. If I spend my entire weekend avoiding the juice, come Monday at lunchtime, all I can think about is how badly I need a cocktail. There’s a restlessness brought on by days and days of working and it must be put to rest, doused in alcohol and left to pass out. And if you can craft it so you are drunkity-drunk-drunk but not chillin on the bathroom floor with your new friend Toilet the next morning, you are on your way to an awesome weekend.

Step Two: Do Nothing.
A crucial component of a satisfying weekend is the part where you do nothing. This cannot be overlooked. In fact, write it down. In order to feel truly relaxed and rejuvenated, ready to face another week of jerkoffs riding you, you must spend a chunk of time doing whatever you damn well please. I recommended a minimum of two hours, if possible. However, if you are really good at being anti-social, sometimes you can plan yourself a whole entire day of lazing around the house. Time spent doing nothing comes quite naturally if you participated a little too over zealously in step #1 and your hangover forces you to spend some quality time with your couch (I find it to be more enjoyable, though, if I am not fighting waves of vomit). There is something extremely satiating about answering to no person and no schedule. Don’t even look at the clock. Just let it ride.

{Note: Occasionally, it can get a little boring if the most interesting thing on tv is a VH1 marathon of some sort. So instead, turn on the tunes, sit and listen to an album straight through (I suggest Wilco "Sky Blue Sky" for instance, or Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros "Up from Below" for something a little peppier). A little music therapy can go a long way.}

Step Three: Repent.
The final element to a perfect weekend is the time you spend making up for all the lazy, self indulgent activities you’ve been engaging in. More specifically, it’s accomplishing whatever small or large personal or domestic business you need to take care of but just can’t bring yourself to face during the week. I call it business because it’s grown up stuff. For me, that usually means cleaning, washing clothes and cooking. If I over-caffeinate enough, I can wake up, clean the bathroom, shop and cook for the week, and do a load of laundry, all before my Sunday night tv starts! The bottom line is that no one wants to do this shit. Ever. But if you have achieved steps #1 and #2, the guilt from being an alcoholic slug will motivate you to get all those chores done and give you something to feel successful about. Generally, it also puts you a step ahead for the coming week, which makes Monday that much easier.

There it is, friends. Incorporate these things into your weekend and you can watch the Sunday Surlies melt away.

That's What She Said


The Scene: Megan is building a difficult piece of Ikea furniture in the living room. Erin is drinking a whiskey sour nearby and ignoring her cries for help.

Megan: So I couldn't find the hole because the wood is in the way.

Rain, rain go away


Come again another day. JUST KIDDING. Please rain? Pretty please with a cherry on top? And some whip cream. PLEEEASE????

I don't know if the internet is the proper place to perform any kind of weather-related prayer, but I've already practically fallen to my knees on the sidewalk and begged the skies to open up and shower us with mercy. It's been days since it's rained in Chicago, which means that for days and days and days, while it has been just threatening to rain, it has felt like the goddamn tropics around here.

Erin and I have been sitting in our apartment, fans buzzing, beads of sweat clinging to our faces, watching each others' hair grow frizzier and curlier by the minute. Everything in our house is saturated with moisture. Even the wood on the door frames is swollen from the humidity, which is super entertaining (not) when it's time to lock the damn door.

I tried to pack some boxes the other day for our upcoming move. Made of the traditional sturdy cardboard, they all folded in the wrong places the moment I lifted them. It was soggy and impossible, like trying to carry a sleeping child's limp body.

Today hasn't been so awful. In fact the temperature right now is downright pleasant. But I still have a fro rivaling that of a certain scary haired comedian/freakshow, and any exertion outdoors results in just enough sweat for me realize that I should have a swimsuit on because I'm fucking five feet under water in a swimming pool. Only I've gotten used to it.

So again, I supplicate to the clouds, the gods, whatever the hell is up there, please, please rain. Please?

Erin's 1st Annual Best Bar Awards


There is only one thing I have unequivocally excelled at in life: heavy drinking. And now, one year into my tenure in Chicago, I look back and admire the truly great places that have rendered me happy and incoherent. You have all been cruel lovers of mine; this one's for you!

Best Cocktail
You've seen it here before. The unparalleled gimlet/margarita at The Matchbox. There is no pleasure like the pleasure of sipping a long series of these. Say what you will about the bar; call it cramped, call it uncomfortable, call it inconvenient; you will COME to this bar for this drink and you will find it hard to leave. Zest that motherfucking lime
What you drink: How many times do I have to say it? The goddamn margarita.

Best Beer Selection
I would like to remind everyone that this is a purely subjective list, that these names are only from personal experience and tastes, and once I find something I like, I rarely deviate. So, in what is assuredly a contentious category, I give my vote to Quenchers Saloon. Located near my place (bonus points!) and hosting plenty of live music, Quenchers isn't just an inviting dark place to put back a few, but houses a selection of over 80-some odd domestic and international beers, including the beloved official beer of this site, Bell's Two Hearted Ale. Good God.
what you drink
: The specials are always a good place to start; one of the only places I know with Quilmes readily available.

honorable mention
: The Rock Bottom Brewery. I have a serious fondness for micros and any beer that aims only to fuck your shit up. See the seasonal beers and drink yourself retarded.

Best Bar Food
No competition whatsoever, Skylark. A bar that looks nothing at all like it tastes, it's a large innocuous place with a few mangy hipsters hanging around. When I was told I was in for the mac n cheese of my life, naturally I scoffed for I am a macaroni champ. And then I shut up and ate/drank my dinner. Glorious, holy, and unfuckingbelievable. Go there and eat, brethren. Spread the gospel of Skylark.
what you drink/eat: Another honorable purveryor of Bell's Two Hearted. Do yourself a favor and go decadent: Bell's, tater tots that will blow your mind, collard greens as you've never tasted them, topped off with the macaroni n cheese. If you die, it will be in the most complete, sated happiness you've ever experienced.

honorable mention: Not actually a bar, but no less dear to my heart, Won Kow is one of the oldest dim sum establishments in Chinatown. $2 Tsing Tao and some of the finest tasting dumplings. For best results, get there early on Chinese New Year and tie on a serious buzz with friends before hitting the parade.

Best Music
God help me, another category bound to get me lynched in this town. But for sheer awesomeness of acts, atmosphere, crowd quality (see: ratio of hipsters to me), and fucking affordability, I give it to Schuba's. My heart has been broken twice now in the space of a month having missed the likes of Elvis Perkins and Dan (holyshitareyoufuckingkiddingmetheguyfromtheblackkeys?i wouldmakeallhisbabies!whyyyyyyyyyamimissingthisshow?!!?!iwanttodie...) Auerbach. Couple these allstars with the fact that my friend's band has also played there on numerous occasions and drawn a crowd, and you have yourself a refreshingly unpretentious venue. Ignore the fools with their Ginsberg beards and PBRs. You are here to rock. And no one is going to stop you.
what you drink
: Keep it simple. Bottled domestics - the waitress will be good to you while you dance your little heart out.

Best Atmosphere
I am a lover of novelty and deviance. You know these things; you're no stranger to my scribblings, Dear Reader. So this category goes to The Old Town Ale House. It's a close, dark dive (as all these bars are) with every inch of available wall space covered in portraits. The paintings are done, I understand, by the owner, and the subject matter ranges from frequent patrons to political figures. I arrived on the doorstep of this bar when word spread (circa the last election) of a scurrilous nude portrait of Sarah Palin. Buyer Beware: human paint-flesh is in no short supply here, and if you're some sort of uptight fascist, you should stay away. But if you too have imagined the ample breasts of Ms. Palin as she grins and clutches a rifle (Freud? Are you listening?), then I suggest making the trip.
what you drink: Standard fare here. You come for the happy crowd and interesting eye candy.

honorable mention: On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, we have Guthries. Going to Guthries is like stepping into someone's living room. The place is warm and lamp-lit. Small tables covered in red-checked tableclothes. More board games than you can handle waiting to be played. Quiet winter evenings were made for a good round of Trivial Pursuit and some fine bourbon, neat.

Best After-Work Dive
Brando's is hidden in a quiet spot in the Loop, beloved of long-gone deranged capitalist alcoholics who would sooner escape into the bottom of a glass than suffer another minute in corporate hell. As I am pretty much the opposite of this (for now), I come to Brando's with the expectation that I will be leared at, but not bought a drink; be the subject of an overloud hateful accusation directed at women (those bitches), but offered protection or an apology should some out-of-line outsider make a move. The place looks to have been remodeled with the hope that the clientele would be escorting high-class hookers. Abundant red velvet and blue lighting. But these hopes must have faded, since there is always some basketball game on tv and lovelorn Springsteen in the air.
what you drink: There are some wicked martinis to be had in these parts, but I stick to the whiskey sour or some kind of assy Budweiser product to remind myself I don't want to be here in 5 years' time.

Best Overall - The Bar All Bars Should Strive to Be
An easy pick for me - Delilah's. I have loved many bars, but none so well as you. Shall I name the reasons? Dark and intimate. A rotation of local artists' works on the walls (last I saw, a collection of unicorns doin it). Amazing punk and rockabilly music all the time at volumes that make your eardrums beg for mercy. A bartender that looks like James Dean. Zombie movies on in the afternoon. Draft beer that will give you a hard-on. A whiskey selection that will make you straight fall on your knees and declare your undying devotion. Oh, and the occasional promotional event in which they hand out free scotch. Free Scotch! I'm no scientist, but I'm pretty sure free scotch cures cancer. And AIDS. And did I mention the many-tattooed James Dean bartender? And I shall name my first born, be he male or female, Delilah.
what you drink: Bell's Two Hearted, when it's available. Piraat, if you're in a beer mood (this shit will kick your ass; i imagine this is what licking a Belgian pirate would taste like); whatever the shot of the month is; absinthe; whiskey/bourbon/scotch.....really, you can do no wrong here.


Biggie & Jan


I've been dreading this post because it is mostly depressing. But since I have absolutely nothing else to do at the moment and this has been staring me in the face for a week, here it goes.

My sister's puppy, Biggie Smalls, passed away last Friday. Before they even got to meet him.

They bought Biggie from a well-reputed-among-Marines breeder in Missouri, whose son is also a Marine and is stationed in 29 Palms, which is near where Meredith & Tony live. The breeder and her husband were driving across the country with all the puppies, dropping them off at their new homes, when in New Mexico they let them out at a park to play. Biggie, being adventurous, got into something and began to choke; they were able to clear his airway and thought everything was fine. The next morning, however, he was vomiting and clearly very ill, so they took him to an emergency vet. About three miles from the vet their car broke down (can you believe that?). Biggie was in such distress by this time that the breeder's husband started running with him, but they just couldn't make it in time. Biggie died.


Naturally, Meredith and Tony were pretty distraught after losing the puppy they'd never met but had come to love through photos and updates since he was a week old. They'd already prepared for this independent, outgoing little guy.

Another couple in Hawaii who'd put a deposit down on a female puppy, Biggie's sister, learned what had happened to Meredith and Tony's pup. They already have a bulldog from this breeder and offered to give up their puppy and wait for another litter to get a second dog.

Meredith and Tony thought long and hard about whether they would be able to accept this new dog who was so different in every way from the dog they had been ready to adopt. First, she was female, which would mean they would HAVE to get her fixed pretty much right away, something they'd planned to put off with Biggie until they decided whether to stud him out. This was a financial burden they hadn't planned on. Then there was the personality differences; the breeder told them that this girl was shy and cuddly, whereas Biggie had been, well, the complete opposite. But after sleeping on it, they decided that this must be the puppy they were meant to have, even if they were sad about losing Biggie.

They got her on Monday. Her name is Jan Levinson-Gould (Jan for short) and they are already in love.

Yes, very soon I will shut the hell up about Zack being gone. You're welcome.


Starting around the end of April I began to dread the upcoming Summer of Quality Time With Myself. And when I say dread I don't just mean that heavy feeling in the pit of your stomach when you think about whatever you are not wanting to happen. I mean I was near tears when I thought about the TEN WHOLE WEEKS that stretched before me OHMYGOD and I was a constant ball of anxiety (because I like to sweat the small stuff). I even had myself a little drama queen moment when I actually - out loud - admitted to Zack that I was angry at him for leaving. Leaving to go off and do something necessary for his career. Where he would be making us lots of money. For me to spend. See how this is a little (or, you know, A LOT) of crazy to be all stored up in one person?

Cue over-acted dramatic flailing.

Now that the ten-week separation is coming to a close, I find myself feeling absolutely fucking ridiculous for making such a big deal out of the whole thing. Granted, we ended up seeing one another every weekend save one when we thought we'd only be able to afford to travel every second or third weekend. That helped a ton. It never felt like the separation was TOO overwhelming except that one day when my dad left town, my sister moved across the country, my grandparents left and my husband went back to Minnesota. That day sucked pretty hard.

So Saturday marks the end of this experience and I have to say that everything everyone told me was true. I did learn to value a good dose of alone time. I did not die because Zack was not around for ten weeks and I managed to keep the pets alive and even add a couple of basil plants to the mix (which, seriously, who wants fresh basil? because I have some pretty prolific basil plants flourishing on my porch).

People keep asking if I am nervous about having Zack home after "all this time apart". And the answer is "eh, not really". It's not like we'll need to readjust to one another because we've seen each other every five days. We talk multiple times a day. While I now know I can appreciate coming home to an empty house and cooking whatever I want for dinner without argument or compromise (and grocery shopping, I will miss you!), the apartment feels empty without Zack in it. Even the animals are different: needier, more clingy. We are all better when Zack is around, but we can survive a few weeks when he has to be somewhere else (as long as plenty of visits are involved, apparently). This summer has made me more aware of my own independence, which is never a bad thing. I missed Zack terribly when he was gone, but I also came to understand that I WAS OKAY ANYWAY. I could miss him and still get along alright by myself. Who knew?!

This Is Not My Beautiful House


You didn't expect me to start squatting in you last August after our brief meeting a few months before at a party, me drunk and passed out on your air mattress, a friend of a friend. But there I was, setting up camp in the sunroom. You tried to accomodate me, and it was nice for awhile. Your built in cabinets and stained glass were charming. Your wood floors and brightly painted walls so amiable and cozy. I thought you were different, Apartment. I thought you were special.

It didn't last long; there were cracks. You shocked me by sporadically leaking all over my bed during thunderstorms. And "leaking" is the nice way of saying "Oozing Chicago city water through the roof and sodden plaster, leaving rusty, flaking stains on the ceiling." Oh how I hated the ceiling crumbs in my bed after it all dried a few days later. But I was willing to forgive. I did, afterall, have a habit of trailing coffee drips all over your floors. Tit for tat, yes? But then you hit me where it hurts. My books (my books!!) filled one of your cabinets, and you, for reasons I'll never understand, seeped that same disgusting goo all over them, topped with a dusting of mysterious powder that I can only imagine was a mixture of grout, dirt and asbestos. I want to believe you didn't see the next part coming, but I'll be damned if an alarming alien mold didn't begin to cover everything that had been spoiled by your leaks. There was an ugly fight. I said some terrible things. Our mutual friends didn't understand because you never treated them this way.

But by then it was winter and what was the use in going our seperate ways after all these months? Better together in hate than alone, we thought. Things quieted down between us.

And then a new low. Alone together one night, just enjoying the simple pleasures of hearth and home, I was distracted from my reading by the slightest motion. I know you didn't mean for me to see it and that made it worse. A rat stared at me from the kitchen doorway. How long had you been housing that bastard too, you whore? Don't even try to tell me that there was only one; i know how these things work, Apartment. Slut. I hope you've noticed my brazen Craigslist searches for someone far, far better than you. Oh, this one has a garbage disposal! And just think of all the things I could do with a BIG porch...

Apartment, we can't even say we had that great of a run. But now that the lease is up and our shaky peace is on the verge of being a memory, I'm struck with a perverse longing for those hangover days spent staring at your ceiling in the dark living room from the couch, Chinese food an arm's length away. Or standing alone on your back porch on a winter night watching the snow come down with a cup of tea and a cigarette. Your squeaky floorboards. Your view of the busy corner from my bedroom windows. It has given me no pleasure to list your crimes here (and I left out quite a few, didn't I?), but I'll always remember you as my first.

I've got BIG(GIE) news!


My sister and brother-in-law are getting their puppy on Saturday! Stay tuned, for the next round of pics will be of Biggie Smalls with his new (and undoubtedly improved) family.


Paaaaaassed out.

At 5.5 weeks. This is my fave picture of him:

OOF! (7 weeks)

"Dude, get your paws off my paws"

Noooooot so much a bath-lover, this one (8 weeks)

But whew, it's good to be dry.

Things I Will Not Miss About This Summer Separation Business


As of August 7th Zack is done with his summer associateship in Minneapolis. It totally flew by, right? I know! And I wasn't even the soggy, drippy puddle of squishiness and tears that I expected to be (for lo, I am Emotionally Dependent) (also apparently exceptionally brilliant at summering alone, thankyouverymuch) (and loving on those parenthesis today).

And since it's clear from past posts on this here bloggity blog that I am List Master, here's one crafted lovingly to convey all the things I will not miss once he is back in Chicago full-time.

1) Taking the dog out EVERY EFFING TIME. I am way over that.

2) Having random discussions about Important Things over the phone because we will not see each other at home. Particularly discussions of the While-I'm-At-Work variety.

3) Carrying all the heavy shit home from the grocery store (note to self: Quit being the douche of your own life and pick up some freakin' cat litter already. No more putting it off in the hope that some burly dude will magically appear to carry it for you. That stank is getting out of hand).

4) Frying my own bacon. Those grease droplets that spit up at you are ouchy!

5) Airports can suck it. Particularly the security checkers at Midway who took 25+ minutes to check my stuff when there was no line whatsoever and the Delta/Northwest checker-inner guy who was a bitch to me when my flight was canceled from O'Hare for no particular reason. Wait! No! Airports I love you! Please don't make me take the MegaBus again! NOOOOO!

6) Doing ALL the housework ALL by myself ALL the time. I am not so generous as to take joy in doing all the chores for my beloved like some people I know.

7) Doing aaaaaaall my laundry only to pack it all up and smush it all into a suitcase [because I way overpack no matter where I'm going or for how long] thus ruining the fresh-from-the-dryer wrinkle-freeness of the clothes and then back home not having the "I'm living out of a suitcase" excuse for being wrinkly because technically I - ahem - don't have to live out of my suitcase anymore even though I am. Not that I do that for weeks after I return from a trip or anything.

8) Except that this summer I can't live out of my suitcase for weeks at a time because I am repacking the damn thing like every fifth day or some shit. To go to Minnesota. Which I thoroughly enjoy, for the record. But traveling so much is exhausting and I would like a weekend here or there to do things like see my friends or visit my mom. Or just laze about in my underwear all day, you know?

9) Eating cereal for dinner every. single. night. Cooking for one sucks.

10) Zack is super awesome at remembering to kick the cats the fuck out of our bedroom at night. Me, well, not so much.

Hungry Like The...


I was delighted/horrified when a friend described me on a whim as follows: "You make a joke, Erin makes a sex joke. That's all you need to know." So is it any surprise that, over mostly empty bottles of red wine, one of our very own bloggers suddenly posed a Who Would You Rather Do It With question?


No disrespect MJ. Moonwalk in heaven.
Or This:
Thank you, "sexy werewolf" Google search.

God, hard choice settling on a wolf man picture friends. But that's why I do this; to bring you, dear reader, only the finest fan art the internet has to offer. Look at the pencilly detailing on the rippling abdomen of that fantastic man creature up there...

So I assume you know who we settled on. Unanimously. Tell me you don't agree.

To not risk betraying a deep cynical streak and slandering the dead, I leave this post here, with the marriage of both our worthy candidates sprung from the great mind of Tina Fey.

Behold My Glorious List! Or, A Stunning Display of Austin's A.D.D.(Again)


My mind is whizzing all over the place! So here's a list of what's been going on.

1. Zack's birthday was Saturday. Since I wanted to get going with that whole grand loving gesture business, I decided (months and months and MONTHS ago) to give him 25 gifts for being a quarter-century old. He had noooooo idea what I had in store for him and was pretty shocked at the giant stack of presents awaiting him on the morning of his birthday. Photos forthcoming of my aesthetic gift masterpiece as soon as I locate my camera cord hooky-uppy thingamajig. I also baked him a cheesecake, which I of course forgot to photograph. It was good! Was impressed with mah kitchen skillz. That is, until I attempted to make pesto from scratch but the handmade pasta did not cooperate and instead everything turned into a big mushy disaster. Lucky for us we had a late lunch and so it was more show-dinner than necessary-dinner. We topped the evening off with a trip to Kingston Mines, Zack's "Most Favorite Ever, Only Blues Bar Worth Stepping Foot In" bar. Overall, I'd say the day was a raging success. Except for the part where we saw the movie Bruno. Um, yuck. I do not recommend.

2. We also saw Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince this weekend. I RECOMMEND. I may have shed a tear or five. So. Good. And the theater wasn't even a quarter full so that was happy. I only had to give the stinkeye once to some girl who decided to start talking in a normal voice about what she thought of the previous scene during like, the most touching part of the film. People, wrangle your children! God, you'd think Harry Potter was like a kids' movie or something. Hmph!

3. I started Weight Watchers today. Um, I am sort of obsessed already. Which is good and bad I suppose. Good because it's taking my attention off mommy blogs and all the babies I can't have. And because I could stand to lose a bunch of weight. (They tell you on the WW website what your healthy weight range is based on your height and yeaaaaaah...I haven't seen those numbers on a scale in a couple years). Bad because...well...maybe it's not so bad after all. (see above)

4. I am also exercising each morning before work. That's right! I am dragging my lazy self from bed a whole 40 minutes early to power walk/climb stairs or to do calisthenics. I sort of hate doing anything exercise-y outside because I'm all red-faced huffing and puffing past the spandex-wearing, dewy Barbie doll who's lapping me (again). The gym is no better. But calisthenics? On my bedroom floor? LOVE! So I am switching it up and doing some of each.

5. My brother is coming to stay a week with me beginning Thursday! (!!!!) He's funny and we have a great time just hanging out together. I got him addicted to True Blood and have been saving all the episodes for him on my wonderful DVR, so I'm sure a little marathon of this season will be happening. There might also be some boozing involved, which is soooort of detrimental to my Weight Watchers goal but you know. BROTHER IN TOWN. This does not happen that often, so no judgment, k?

6. Sunburn update: Other than some strange and terrible tan lines, it's pretty much subsided into what is, for me, quite a nice tan. In related sunburn news, however, I upped my SPF from 15 to 30 in my daily face moisturizer (due to a severe, blistery sunburn on my face in high school I have to be extra super careful and this last sunburn was a little lobstery for my cancer-free comfort). I bought some Eucerin Sensitive Skin stuff that is unscented and so SMELLS LIKE SPF (OMG go figure!). And Zack whines about it every single time he gets a whiff. Which is apparently every time he's within two feet of me because this weekend was a constant stream of beach jokes at my expense. Sigh. $11 for moisturizer that makes your husband crinkle his nose is kind of a downer. Luckily! I can use it joke-free five days of the week because he's in Minneapolis. See? Silver lining to this summer separation. It's saved me 11 bucks so far.

Alright, I'm off to browse in wonder more Weight Watchers recipes. Really, so many sound delicious! Good food + Weight Loss = A Program I Can Get Behind.

Am I weird? I think I'm kind of weird.


In the past three years I have moved four times. I am moving again in 11 months. That equals A LOT of house/apartment/condo hunting. And I am starting to get the impression that I am a weirdo because I get super! excited! about the search. I can spend hours on Craigslist browsing apartments and looking for the best deal for what I know we would want. I even do this when I am not necessarily in the market for a new place (I tell myself it's good to keep an eye on what's available, but really I am just crazy and juggling too much free time). I also watch ungodly amounts of HGTV because...well, read the title of this post!

It has come to my attention recently that this feeling of goodwill toward house hunting is not usually how others feel about it. Apartment hunting is often stressful and anxiety-ridden because it means lots of packing and the problem of changing your commute to work and saying goodbye to the things you love about where you currently live ("But I LOVE that corner store! It's so CONVENIENT!"). Or, you know, you might be moving completely out of the area in which you currently live, and therefore your entire life is about to become a raging mess for a little while. (I am - ahem - still, uh, excited for this type of move).

I hate packing (love unpacking and arranging), enjoy a change of scenery in my routine travels, and long ago decided that while I might LOVE something about where I live (Oh, central Virginia, I would have married you for the wine) I can always visit (or join a wine club that delivers). Strange detachment from the one who is usually so overly-sentimental, eh?

Maybe it doesn't bother me because I moved a lot when I was a kid. My mom casually mentioned the other day that she's lived in her current house longer than anywhere else in her adult life. She's been there seven years, since the summer before my senior year of high school. And seven years - seven years! - seemed like SUCH A LONG TIME to me. I would definitely not say that my childhood was unstable, for the record. We changed addresses with decent frequency but made sure to stay close to our schools. We only changed schools because of a move once, when we came to Illinois from Washington in 1992. Otherwise, the picture of stability! And small petting zoos! But that is another story.

Back to my obsession with living space.

I think I just really like to imagine myself in a new space. You can't really know how you will like a place until you live with it, so even the most well-researched homes have their issues. For example, in our current 680 square feet of apartment, we thought hardwood floors would be awesome. We had beige carpet in our Charlottesville townhome and a puppy who wasn't fully house trained. You can imagine the stains (and the security deposit flowing quickly down the drain).

So, hardwood. Ideal! Yeah, not so much. With our three sheddy shedders in such a small space, it is virtually IMPOSSIBLE to keep the damn floors looking clean. So while I am still up for hardwood floors in our next place, I'd like the space to be 1) LARGER (it will be for sure); and 2) sporting a lighter wood floor. We have a dark chocolaty brown wood now, which is really rich and lovely EXCEPT FOR THE HAIR. Oh, God, the hair. It is the bane of my housecleaning existence and I cannot wait to have a place where I can stay on top of it.

Another reason I am ready to publicly defend my silly habit of cruising Craigslist (but not the icky, illegal kind) is that it's just plain smart to know what the market is like. You know what you can get for your budget and which areas are most budget-friendly. You'll have a better sense of what's a good deal and who is ripping you off with that crazy rental price. Lately I've switched from Craigslist to Zillow.com because...ta da! Zack and I have decided to buy a house when we move to Minneapolis! And even though it's still a ways away we've received nothing but commendation from people who know we are already looking. Housing eats up a HUGE portion of your income whether you're renting or buying; so why not be as informed as possible? I may be over the top with my love of the hunt, but I know I'll be ready when the time comes to get serious about it.

What the hell is this?!


Hi friends!

Erin and I were talking this morning and decided the blog needed a face lift. So we gave it one, Hollywood-style. And by "we" I do mean "Erin". My contribution consisted of "OOOOH PRETTY!" and a couple of Google searches. It was Erin who found the template and emitted the brain power necessary to make it ours. We hope you enjoy!

If this doesn't at least make you smile...


Then you suck. In the past, I've judged strange people like this guy for weirdo dancing alone. But that was before I met Jon O. Jon O likes to dance. A lot. Before a show, Jon O talks about the music based on how great it's going to be to dance to. When he gets to the show, he stretches to get warmed up before he begins contorting and flailing his body in the glorious way that he does. Sometimes he's the only one dancing, alone there at the front of the crowd with a 5x5 foot space cleared for him, shakin his shit. This does not bother Jon O at all. Dancing seems to be something that brings him genuine happiness, and it is for this reason that I no longer frown at crazy dancers. Instead I've come to admire their free-spirited nature.
Now check this other fool out. Look how the happiness spreads! This is someone's video from Sasquatch Music Festival
. Invest a minute in this and you will be rewarded. I promise.

The Great Peel Advances


Last weekend I was on a boat for six hours straight. In the hot, hot sun. Sporting six applications of SPF-whatever-was-on-board. SIX applications I tell you! And still I have the most terrible sunburn.

Not only do I have said terrible sunburn, but you can see exactly where the sun was in the sky based on the burn patterns across my body. My left half is significantly more lobsteresque than my right. The inner part of my right leg is crimson, while it is the outer part of my left leg that is burned. I have (gasp! the horror! the shame!) bright white sunglass lines blaring from each temple and across the bridge of my nose. My shoulders got the worst of it, though. Oh, how deep the red of my shoulders.

Sleeping is a treat I'm not even sure I can describe, but I'm beginning to think a Ph.D. in yoga would have been helpful in this situation. After several nights of pretending I'm a contortionist I have found that it doesn't hurt so much if my lower half rests on the side of my [relatively unscathed] right leg, while the top half of my body stays flat, my head slightly elevated so as to reduce the amount of touching between shoulders and pillows. Throw a blanket into the mix, though, and everything is just fucked.

Gentlemen: Here is yet another way in which you are genetically blessed while we ladies are built to suffer: boobs. For when one possesses boobs, it is mandated that one must don a bra if one's boobs are any sort of large or bouncy (mine are both) before going out in public. And every time I carefully, painstakingly, pull brastraps onto my shoulders I let out a yelp that makes my dog flee in terror and the cats scurry under the bed. It HURTS.

But NOW - five days post-sun exposure - the peeling has begun. And the itching. It is...severe. My skin is...patchy. In between treatments of cooling and delicious aloe vera after my shower in the morning and before bed at night, I've been slathering on Aloe Vera After Sun Lotion which is wonderfully moisturizing (despite the label blathering on about how it's actually to "prevent and protect from the drying effects of wind and cold weather" (heh? then why do you call it 'After Sun Lotion' and not 'After Wind and Cold Weather Lotion'?! Get it together, Walgreen's label peeps!)).

I wish I hadn't left my camera on the boat in Minnesota, for the photos would be too amazing to not show you all. Really, you would be astounded. But alas, I have no pictures to share. I can only leave you with the promise that I am RED and BURNED and HURTY and PEELING. And a big, fat reminder to all my fellow fair-skinned folk to make SPF 4 Frillion your new BFF and stay your asses in the shade. Learn from my mistakes!

Adventures in City Dwelling


Today I went to the grocery store on my lunch break to pick up a few things for my fabulous, funky dinner party tonight. The store is about a 20 minute walk from my office, 30 minutes when the streets are packed full of tourists on a beautiful day like today. Given that it would take me 30 minutes to walk there and 30 minutes back, I had to find a way to get there via transportation. So I took...dun dun dun...the bus. And thus began my hour long adventure.

Now I ride the bus out on the west side from home to the red line a couple of times a week, but rarely in the loop. These past few weeks, however, I've found myself running errands north of the loop on my lunch break, which has required extra bus riding. And the thing about bus riding, the most unfortunate thing about bus riding, is that it is not a solo activity. No, there are other, I shall call them "people" but I'm hesitant, other "people" that ride the bus with you. Occasionally, this makes for an entertaining trip. Usually it makes for an annoying trip. Like today.

1:05 p.m
I get on the bus today, quietly catching up with my mom on the phone. The bus seems pretty empty and I am pleased.

1:07 p.m
A couple stops down and the bus is much fuller. An ambulance is screaming by and children en masse are getting on the bus. One of them and his mother sits down directly across from me. This child appears to be about six, maybe seven years old. Old enough to behave. Upon sitting in his chair, he starts wailing and crying and flailing for reasons I do not understand. I am still on the phone with my mother.
Mom: Where the hell are you now? What's all that noise? Is that a baby???
Megan: No. No Mom. It is not, in fact, a baby.

More people get on the bus, this time a very angry woman and her child. She shoves her child down the aisle toward a seat and plants herself next to the driver and begins yelling. I'm trying not to pay attention because, quite frankly, I don't care. But the yelling escalates and finally I have to hang up the phone with my mom because we can't hear each other.

The angry woman seems to be angry that the bus didn't come fast enough. Or that some other bus drove right past her. I couldn't tell which. She eventually sits down, but not without comments from the peanut gallery behind me. Next thing I know, some dude yells to the middle of the bus, instructing the angry woman to sit down and shut up. Why on earth someone is picking a fight with this woman is beyond me, but he is. She tells him to shut up. He tells her to shut up again, for she is on the bus now, what is the point in yelling? He gets up to exit the bus at his stop. She gets up to confront him. They talk in each others' faces for a few seconds. He tells her to stop her bitching and gets off the bus. She yells after him, "SHUT UP! YOU GAY BITCH!!"

I see I'm at my stop and fly off the bus, only to be confronted, videogame style, with a load of tourist idiots that I have to dodge and wiggle through to get to my destination.

I finally make it to the grocery store where I search out my bread and marshmallow cream. Apparently, this grocery store does not have marshmallow cream because God hates Megan.

I get in line. The Express line, as I only have four items. I'm going to be cutting it close getting back to work, perhaps I will take a cab. I look to see who's ahead of me in line. The guy directly in front only has a few items. As I look to the lady in front of him, I noticed that it is her turn and she is paying. She has also just pulled a large pile of change from her purse. My eyes widen. She begins counting.

Her total is $21.19. Moving at the speed of a glacier, she puts the change into dollar piles and slowly reaches $7 of change. I nod my head to myself, "Yeah, this about right. This is my life." After another dollar pile and another two minutes, she hands the woman a $10 bill, pleased with herself and, apparently, finished counting. I calculate in my head and find she has only paid $17 of her $21.19 bill. The cashier agrees with my mental math and tells her she needs more money. The woman scoffs and mutters in another language and counts out another dollar. Again, the cashier points to the total on the screen and says, "It's $21.19". The woman mutters again and reaches into her pocket, from which she pulls a fistful of BILLS. Ones, fives, tens, twenties. My eyeballs nearly fall on the floor.

I'm out the door and standing on the street trying to get a cab. A seemingly harmless grandpa looking old man approaches the bus stop near me. He begins bumbling around and quickly becomes less harmless seeming. "Those motherfuckers!" he bellows, gesturing at some invisible group of motherfuckers. "Those motherfucker bastards! Shouldn't be workin a job like that," he growls. "They should be workin in a kitchen. In a dump!". He is talking to no one in particular. "I'll tell you what, those cocksuckers! That fucking bus!". As he continues talking, the words between curses begin to make less and less sense. Finally a cab rescues me.

I am in the cab of a rather friendly cab driver, probably in his fifties. We have some ambiguity about which way he should go, and he offers the information that he is new to cab driving. This is not the first time, or the second, that I have been subject to the confusion of a new cab driver, but at least he knows where the address is, if not exactly how to get there.

I asked, "How long have you been driving then?".

He tells me three weeks. I ask him, "Do you like it?"

He says no, with a very sad look on his face, and tells me that he lost his job and that this is what he is stuck doing. He also tells me that since he has started driving all day long, his back has already begun hurting him. None of this is said pitifully, just with resignation, which makes me unbearably sad. I tip him $3.50 for a $6 cab ride, as he probably needs the extra dollar more than I do. He thanks me profusely and I exit the cab.

Living in the city, you are forced to face the sadness of downtrodden people on a regular basis. Some days, some excursions you are forced to deal with it a lot more. It's easy to turn away and try to ignore it. But sometimes I like to indulge in the reality of it all to make myself realize how lucky I am to be protected in my white, rich person bubble, unlike the crazy old man, or the angry woman, or the sad cab driver. And then I like to give myself a pat on the back for still, even after seeing the sadness on a daily basis, being moved enough by what's going on around me to doing something uncharacteristically unselfish, like making the cab driver grin with an extra tip.

A Post Named Desire


Readers, bloggers, friends, brethren. It's a shit day. It's drizzly. It's dark. It's putting everyone in a foul/somber/utterly depressing mood. For reasons related to my inadequate computer skills, the most I can do for you is provide a link. A golden link. A link that will lead you to the greatest 2 minutes in cinematic history. Minutes so frought with sexual tension and dirty southern excellence you will immediately pack your bags and head off for New Orleans in search of the great American lust fulfillment. Go forth and watch.

Struggling to see the purpose


On Monday morning my childhood friend passed away.

We went to a small Catholic school through 8th grade and then to the same high school, although by 9th grade we ran in different circles. Even though shit happened between us that caused our friendship to end when we were kids, we were friendly in high school. After she heard that I'd gotten married in January she sent me a really nice message and we caught up a little. She seemed happy with her life and excited about her future. Her name was Niki.

Niki's death has sort of rocked my world. It's strange and uncomfortable to think that while I go about making my plans, hers have been cut short. She was six months younger than me.

Every time I think of her family I get choked up. I cannot imagine how I would feel if my brother or sister died. I don't even know how to fathom losing a child. I've never lost anyone close to me.

I am not sure if I'll attend her services. People are wearing pink, Niki's favorite color, to honor her memory. I don't know if I want my last memory of her to be her wake, her funeral, all the sadness and loss. I'd sort of rather remember our childhood sleepovers, the note-passing during class, and her big, bright smile.

And I'll huff! And I'll puff!


That's supposed to be a reference to the big bad wolf. It is also, however, fitting for me, huffin and puffin and stuff (you will understand momentarily). A few days ago, to celebrate my birthday, my lady friends took me out for an awesome dinner at Silver Palm, a fun little restaurant tucked away on the west side of the city. You may have heard of this place (if you watch the same outrageous amount of food-related television that I do) as it was featured in Anthony Bourdain's recent trip to Chicago on No Reservations (video below).

It was at Silver Palm that Mr. Bourdain indulged himself in what was, for me, the ultimate pig-related sandwich. I say "pig-related" because it wasn't just a ham sandwich. Or a pork chop sandwich. No, my dear friends, this sandwich was allllll P.I.G. Fried and juicy pork cutlet, topped with tender slices of ham (real ham, not deli ham), topped with crispy BACON (!), topped with melty gruyere cheese, topped with a fried egg, TOPPED WITH an onion ring, all on a buttery brioche bun. "Three Little Pigs" it's called. Oh. Yeah.

Now I trust Tony to steer me in the right direction when it comes to eating. But I was still skeptical. You see, when things are so over-the-top ridiculously indulgent, I tend to think a lot of their hype comes from that alone, not really the taste or quality of whatever food concoction we are talking about. So while I was OF COURSE planning to order this make-me-a-fatty sammy, I wasn't convinced it would live up to it's reputation.

SURPRISE!! I was clearly mistaken, and despite not even wanting this sandwich to be that great (its proximity to my house is waaay too dangerous), it was. It was heavenly. It was also huge. I cut that baby in half, took a bite and passed it around to my four friends who each took a bite. After that, there was still 3/4 of a sandwich left. I finished the first half and promptly wrapped the second to savor later (sometimes leftovers are a happy thing). It took me the better part of 4 days to finish the rest, and each time I went to the fridge, I was impressed by how utterly delicious that sandwich still was. I loved every calorie laden bite of it.

Here's a clip about it from No Reservations. See fo yo self!

What did you do this weekend? I ate.


I look forward to three day weekends the way little kids look forward to Christmas. For weeks and weeks before the actual weekend I dream of what I will do with THREE WHOLE DAYS. "Vacation" is a foreign word around here, so 72 hours without having to see certain attorneys' stupid faces and without freedom-ruining 'sick day' guilt is pretty much the greatest thing ever.

All that said, you might assume that I would do something spectacular with my wonderful happy extra free time. But you would be wrong. Instead I did all of the normal things I like to do (cook and eat and drink), on a much larger scale. Especially 'eat'. Lots of eating happened this weekend. And when people have asked me today, "So what did you do this weekend?", I've had to refrain from telling them I ate my face off. But it's been hard, because this is how I chronicled my three days:

Thursday: Freedom night: Ceviche and horror.
Sat on the patio at Dunlay's (which I found out is a chain). I searched the menu, hoping that if I stared hard enough a calamari dish might appear to satiate my inexplicable craving for fried squid. But to no avail. So instead I ordered me a real nice Bell's Two Hearted Ale and some ceviche. My beer was delicious. The ceviche not so much. I'm pretty sure it was all prepackaged frozen ingredients. Nuff said.

Erin ordered BBQ Pork Wraps. Sounds tasty yes? Barbecue pig in a fried wrapper. Can't go wrong there, you say. But again, you would be wrong. So wrong it hurts. What appeared before Erin was the disgusting love child of Mao Zedong and Sweet Baby Ray, two people never even meant to meet. Accompanying this horror of a dish was two different types of "sauce", one plum and one a mustard based barbecue sauce. Neither one was too offensive on its own, but they didn't do anything for the wrap. And the wrap needed something to be done because the barbecue pork with the Asian cabbage mix was offensive to my taste buds. I didn't even eat the second roll that I was entitled to. And I've eaten things off the floor. My conclusion is that Asia and the American South are on opposite sides of the planet for a reason. They should stay there.

Friday: Fireworks and potluck! But mostly a good reason to cook!
Feeling rather ambitious I chose to make a pasta salad and just make up the recipe as I saw fit. I was dying to roast some red peppers, as it seems so easy and yet so bad ass. It was. So I made a roasted red pepper sauce to go with wilted spinach and bacon(!). Delectable. Or it could have been had there been enough sauce to moisten the 1.5 lbs of pasta I used. The sauce had too much noodle to cover and so most of the flavors disappeared. I was pretty disappointed with the result, but vowed to fix it as soon as I could get my hands on some more roasted red peppers (fresh or jarred, I did not care).

Ms. Erin on the other hand consulted The Yellow Bible and found a recipe for panzanella. What is panzanella? It is perfection. It is Italian bread salad, so basically toasted bread and tomatoes all gettin it on with garlic and oil and onion. Plus did I mention bread and tomatoes? Seriously, I could have eaten the entire bowl. But Erin had a fork weapon.
We also made chocolate chip cookies. With nuts. I never get nuts in my cookies (laugh, laugh). It's such a delightful treat. I ate at least a dozen of them. Shhhh.

Saturday: Megan feels better about her skillz
Saturday I did not leave my block. This made me happy. Instead I did nothing all day but clean up the aftermath of the previous day's cooking extravaganza. I also popped into the Alb (corner store) to find that they did, in fact, carry a jar of roasted red peppers. It appears to be the only jar of them they have ever carried. I had to wipe about a centimeter of dust and dirt off the container to make sure it was really what I wanted.

At home, I tossed a few more red peps into the food processor, some more oil, and this time some spicy garlic chili sauce that burns my taste buds off but always keeps me coming back for more. I doused that dry ass pasta salad from the day before in my new saucy sauce, added a little more Parmesan and put that biatch in the microwave. What came out was a spicy, rich, cheesy scrumptious bowl of pasta that I couldn't get enough of. It wasn't what I started out trying to make, but like Erin said, "it evolved".

Sunday: Yes my stomach hurts because I ate so much.
Sunday I had foods with Ms. Rachel at Farmerie 58 in River North. Known for local, seasonal ingredients, Farmerie 58 is a lovely place for a brunch on a sunny July Sunday. I had the sour cherry french toast topped with hazelnuts and bourbon syrup. It was sweet and tart and a nice change from regular french toast. The crispy little potato pancake on the side pleased me too, as I am a sucker for the sweet/savory contrast. A tasty meal to start the day. Note "start".

Shortly thereafter, I met up with Erin to visit Taste of Chicago. Because, evidently, I needed to eat again. After avoiding The Taste last year, I guess I forgot why. Now I remember: because it's crowded and hot and crowded some more. Overall it's not worth the excursion or the prices, but I had a couple yummy bites. Since most of our tickets went toward assy beer, we were left to choose a few things we could get sample sizes of.

  • Cheese empanada, yum! But there was a cinnamon flavor sometimes present in Mexican food that I can generally do without.
  • Taro root french fries! MMMmm. Taro root is something I have only recently discovered, and let me tell you, I was missing out. Starchy like a potato, but sweet and creamy when cooked, taro root is really good in soups and other fried concoctions (like Chinese dumplings). It was only a matter of time before I met it in its fry form. Yum yum.
  • Cajun meatballs - Spicy as balls. I don't know who was the first person to grind up some meat and put it in sphere form, but I'm glad they did.
Now you've seen it. A weekend the way I see it. Covered in sauces and spices and bacons.

Drink Me


You will not be sorry.....
Go to The Matchbox. Order the margarita. Or the vodka gimlet. Drink. Repeat as needed. But for best results, at least 10 times. A wise man once said "Livers were made to be broken."

In which I become a puddle and then begin farting money


I am back and mostly recovered from Wedding Weekend. It was four days of exhausting, emotional goodness and my sister's all hitched and moved to California For Real and Actual Life, Not Just For a Visit. The wedding was gorgeous, the bride beautiful, and the weather was perfect. I maaaay have indulged in too many vodka cranberries at the reception and flung myself pretty terrifically around the dance floor. Hopefully there's no photographic documentation of my drunken idiocy but that remains to be seen. I know there was a photographer lurking about.

What sticks out to me most about the weekend, though, is that my baby sister moved 2,000 miles away at the end of it. Sunday we kissed her goodbye and sent her to California on a plane with That Boy. And if ONE MORE PERSON tells me how great! it! is! that I have a free place to crash in California now ("Isn't that awesome?!") I might have to punch them in the head. You've all been warned.


My sister and I have always been close, close friends. We make each other nuts, are very different in most ways, but none of that matters because she's Meredith and I'm Austin and that's just The Way It Is. We laugh at the same jokes and not even our parents can tell us apart on the phone; we quote TV shows and sing the entire Rent soundtrack together. We used to have sleepovers in one another's room to watch movies from our childhood.

So how have I kept from throwing myself onto her sheetless bed in despair and clutching at the clutter of boxes and wedding gifts that await the movers in her empty-walled-but-still-smells-like-her bedroom?

Why, I've gone shopping.

Yes, near my mother's house rests an ever-expanding and glorious outlet mall, where one can purchase last season's clothes at major discounts. And there I soothed my weary soul. So far I am one pair of pants and one tank top from Old Navy, one pair of capris and one pair of super cute shorts from Ann Taylor, and one Burt's Bees shampoo/conditioner set happier. Zack, however, not so much. He may be sending her some hate mail when he looks at our credit card bill because I have not, as this post title implies, begun farting money.


My oh my, sweet strawberry pie!


This week I finished reading Jeffrey Steingarten's The Man Who Ate Everything, in which the penultimate (that’s right bitches) chapter is dedicated totally to pies. Coincidentally (...or not!), I also visited the local farmers market, where almost everyone’s booth is overflowing with fresh picked Michigan strawberries. These two circumstances led to a most ambitious pastry endeavor: I couldn’t resist the idea of a perfect strawberry pie made from scratch.

Having never baked an entire pie before, this little project had the potential to be a giant ego shattering disaster. I’m happy to say, however, that it was not. My pie turned out beautifully (at least in my eyes, and mouth), but not without overcoming a few obstacles, such as the skin melting heat in my kitchen.

I started by cleaning my strawberries and mixing the dry ingredients, a recipe which I sort of made up from a few other recipes I had read. Berry pie filling is shockingly simple. Mine looked like this:

  • 5 cups fresh strawberries
  • ¼ cup and a tablespoon of white sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • ½ flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

I mixed together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and didn’t coat the strawberries in it until the pie dough was made and laid out in dish.

I will admit that I probably read Steingarten’s pie crust recipe a solid 20 times. In “Pies from Paradise”, he describes his attempt at baking a flawless crust, which he qualifies as “flakey, airy, light, tender, crisp, well-browned and good tasting” all at once. After much research and much practice, Steingarten developed a nearly foolproof technique. And though I was super intimidated by his final method, I was (as usual) seduced by the idea of producing a completely delicious, bad-ass homemade treat and impressing the pants off everyone (remember the four different types of truffles for 30 people last Christmas?).

The instructions for the crust are at least seven pages long, and involve five simple ingredients: shortening/lard/butter, salt, flour, sugar, and water. Steingarten recommends using shortening because it seems to be the easiest, but I used cold butter because I couldn’t get my hands on any Crisco. I have a feeling that the butter is really what made the crust so delicious, but it’s also what caused the most problems for me, because did I mention that I chose to bake this pie on the hottest day of the year so far? In my apartment, without central air, the kitchen was no less than 90 degrees. Why would I do that to myself, you may be wondering. And the answer is simply that it is what happens when you are both a masochist and hedonist.

The crust making process went very well considering the conditions. Toward the end though, it started to melt...apart. But I worked quickly and patched a few pieces together to form the bottom layer. By the time I got around to the top layer (which was originally going to be one solid shell), the dough was so soft that I had to cut it into strips and go with an unwoven lattice top. At first I was disappointed with making that change, but it turned out just fine.

Following the directions in Steingarten's book, I baked the pie for a few minutes at a very high temperature. After checking to make sure that the it had begun browning, I turned down the temperature of the oven and let the pie go for about 40 more minutes.

When I finally removed the pie, I was very pleased with my creation. I was also devastated that I had to wait at least two hours before I could find out how it tasted. Patience is a foreign concept for me.

Ta da!

My pie, though it looks like a pizza in the silly picture, is scrumptious. Sweet and tart and gooey. I wouldn't say my crust met all seven standards of greatness, (flakey, airy, light, tender, crisp, well-browned and good tasting) but it was definitely good tasting, well-browned, tender, crisp, and light. Flakey and airy will have to be achieved somewhere other than my hellishly hot kitchen, but I have no doubt it's within my capability. The biggest challenge with this pie appears to be not eating it all immediately.