What I’m Into, April 2014

Wow, April.  I can’t believe it’s over and I can’t believe we survived.  After nearly seven months of winter isolation, I got out and about A LOT in April.  It was incredibly fun.

What I’ve been up to:

We spent a weekend in Washington, DC, with our very best friends.  It was so lovely to see them all and to celebrate birthdays and first-zoo-trips and drink coffee at my favorite coffee place ever.

DC

The following weekend I rented a car and drove to Grand Rapids, Michigan, for the Festival of Faith and Writing.  It was weird and awkward and wonderful.  I met some really lovely new friends!

ffw dinner group!

Kristin from halfwaytonormal.com // Brenna from brennadambrosio.com // Emily from emmillerwrites.com // Anne from modernmrsdarcy.com

I loved so many of the sessions, but I really started feeling my writerliness in a session with Peter Orner (a non-practicing lawyer who is an MFA professor in San Fran and is from my city!).  His novel Love and Shame and Love is set in Chicago and is waiting for me to finish up a few other things I’m reading.  I’m so excited to read it.

Love and Shame and Love, Peter Orner

Love and Shame and Love, Peter Orner

Sometime that week we also made it to our first Cubs game at Wrigley Field.  The next weekend was Easter Sunday, and we spent the holiday with my friend Brenna and her lovely family.  One of her three daughters sat in my lap all day (except for the parts where she was throwing up everywhere) and H and I both felt like we belonged.  Brenna set a lovely table as well:

Easter Meal

Because we spent so much time out of town this month, it’s been hard to do all of the things I really love to do — such as staying at home in my jammies and watching lots of television.  I’ve seen the season finale of Scandal but I’m still a little behind on all of my shows (which is probably good since the season finales leave me with nothing left to watch all summer!  I should probably try to spread them out a bit, but I’m pretty sure I won’t.)

Instead of a subject-by-subject breakdown of the month, here are a few random things I’ve loved this month:

  1. Dark Chocolate Chili Almond KIND bars.  Holy cow they are delicious and only 200 calories.
  2. Eating healthy(ish).  It’s a work in progress.

  3. Kappa Delta.  The Illinois-Wisconsin State Day was last weekend and it was so fun to attend!  I’d never been to a state day before and I didn’t know how adorable it would be to see my Kappa Delta sisters celebrate 50+ years of sorority membership.  They are a d o r a b l e.  And also, smart and kind and funny and stylish.  And even more – seriously, there’s more – they had Midwestern accents.  I nearly died of happiness.

  4. Body shop bath products.  On a related note, I won a raffle for coconut-scented Bodyshop products and they. are. awesome.  I’ve never been one to spend a lot of money on fancy shower/bath stuff, but my showers have been quite lovely this past week!

  5. Pitch Perfect.  I mean, I think that movie is on TV every single day, but the thing is: it is hilarious every single time.

6.  FUMC at the Chicago Temple.  I have so many notes in my journal and things to write about how lovely it has been, but without getting into all of that, it’s just basically the greatest church I’ve ever gone to.  I can really focus on the sermons and enjoy the services because I’m not counting grammatical or historical or factual errors or constantly crossing and uncrossing my legs to distract myself from completely inappropriate comments about poverty, race, or gender.**  It’s really what I’ve been needing and I’m so glad we found it.

  1. Edward Gorey.  Do you guys know about Edward Gorey?  I totally didn’t, and then I went to this Goreyesque event and I fell totally and completely in love!  Apparently Goreyesque is a celebration of funny morbid creative things, like a short story written from the perspective of a recently deceased seventeen year old who makes fun of his sister’s vapid friend while watching his sister wrestle with the details of his suicide.  Which was sad and hilarious.

8.  Me.  Is that weird to say?  This month I’m totally into me.  I’m into goal setting, I’m into believing in myself, I’m into my writing and my blogging and my spiritual development.  I’m also into my brain: I went to a lawyer training event one afternoon and for a few hours remembered how fun it is to think about the law and how much I love doing that.  So that’s cool, right?  I’m kind of into me right now, and working hard to take care of my whole self (brain/heart/body).

Okay, that’s all I’ve got for you this month!  How are things in your world, and what have you been loving this month?  Leave me a note here or join the link-up over at Leigh Kramer’s blog.

What I'm Into Link-up LeighKramer.com

What I’m Into Link-up
LeighKramer.com

** I’m not blaming other churches for my inability to fit in, but I am excited to have found a congregation where I can be myself.  If you’d like to let me know that feeling these feelings or thinking these thoughts in church is my fault and not the church’s fault I’m happy to receive that feedback below.  Thanks in advance.  ;)

Three Real-Life Updates! 4/24/2014

Hi there.  It’s been a wonderful week in the real world, but I’ve been a little quieter than normal here on the internet.  Here’s three real-life updates for you!

  • I’m still having some tech troubles.  I bought a new laptop early last fall, and while it is quite good-looking, I’m finding Windows 8 to be incredibly frustrating when problem solving.  I’ve been running tons of diagnostics and we ended up buying a new wireless router, but I’m still not connecting at 100% and I have to re-enter my wireless network password every single time I turn on my computer and hope that I’ll connect.  It’s annoying, and I’m on the hunt for a solution.  (If you’ve experienced this error please comment here so I can benefit from your solution!)
  • I was really excited to watch Morning Joe’s coverage of the 100th Birthday of Wrigley Field yesterday — did you see it?  I went to my first cubs game earlier this month and even though I typically find baseball pretty boring, I had a wonderful time!  Wrigley Field was old-school in all the right ways.  [Sorry SS.  I know how much you love the Cardinals.]  Also, I’ve selected a new catch phrase for Chicago weather:  Ernie Banks’ weather assessment on a chilly, sunny morning:  “Let’s play two!”

wrigley field

  • As the days get sunnier, I’m loving Chicago more and more.  We had a few warmer days last weekend (Easter Sunday was the most beautiful day I can remember!) and now that it’s cooler again, my fellow Chicagoans have been mumbling in the elevators about how chilly it is.  But I don’t even care!  A cold sunny day is my favorite kind of day.

I’m doing some work behind-the-scenes to hopefully build an even better space for you here, but that work is slow and time consuming so don’t worry if it takes a few more weeks before you start to notice.  I’m still here, and posting regular updates to the blog’s facebook page, so be sure to stay in touch!

On Powerful Words

chandelier photo

I connected with my law school mentor this week. It’s been a while since we were in touch. She shared some good news I wanted to hear, and I shared a link to the panel on creative writing projects by prisoners INCARCERATED PERSONS I attended last week.

It was just a few emails, sent back and forth while we were each doing our own regular work. Nothing important, really. I asked about her daughter’s first year away at college; she asked how my husband’s job was going and if we’d fallen in love with Chicago yet. [Quite well, and yes! a little more every day.] She asked about my current work, and I wrote back about my ongoing project and how I was surprisingly very happy even though I wasn’t currently practicing law. She replied,

Wow, [pink-briefcase] — that is amazing. Those are some incredible skills you are learning. What is the hardest part? Where do you see yourself after this?

We talked a little more, about law school rankings and the future of legal education and the flowers blooming there but not here, but those twenty-five words worked a powerful magic in my heart.

  .  .  .  .

I have a supervisor that isn’t my supervisor at work. He is kind of a mentor, kind of a boss, and kind of a friend. I’ve learned a lot working for/with him. Every now and then, when things get rough and I start to feel on edge, I read over an email he sent one day, which started off:

Your professionalism, persistence, patience, exemplary work ethic and positive attitude have been evident to all throughout this project.

On days when nothing goes right and all I can do is put down my pen and shake my head and pour the tea and start over again, this sentence waits for me. I look up and see it, hanging on my blue bulletin board right above the empty jar that once held black-raspberry jelly my husband’s grandmother made us for Christmas, which now holds pens and highlighters and a pair of scissors, and I read those words. I remind myself that one bad day cannot cancel out months of hard work.

  . . . .

I’m not sure that either of these mentor-friends knows how important their words were/are to me. I didn’t write back “HOLY COW THAT IS SO NICE I’M GOING TO PRINT OUT THIS EMAIL AND HANG IT ON MY BULLETIN BOARD AND LOOK AT IT EVERY DAY FOREVER.” I said thank you and continued on, slightly embarrassed about all of the fuss. No perfectionist really wants to be congratulated for doing a good job (don’t I always do a good job? I always try to do a good job! why is this time different? did I screw up something terribly last week?! . . . ). But as awkward as I may feel when I first receive these affirmations, I am completely changed by knowing that people I trust think these things. I am confident and brave and resilient because I trust their opinions of me to be true, even when my opinion of myself falls far short of their esteem.

We talk a lot online about how words have consequences, but we often really mean that words have negative consequences. We criticize and condemn each other too freely, with too little concern for the way another might feel to read a scathing review, a bullying comment, a snide remark. We forget too quickly that it could easily be the negative comments they are printing out and hanging up on the blue bulletin boards of their hearts. Negative words do have an undeniably strong hold on us, but I’m becoming more aware of the immense power positive words hold as well.

DC Weekend Play-By-Play

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It’s weird, how they say you can’t go home again and yet — you can.  You just purchase a plane ticket and pack a bag and there you are.  This weekend we traveled back to Washington, D.C. (our home for the previous five years) and spent a few days in our favorite city, visiting with our favorite people and eating at our favorite places.  This isn’t a recipe for a perfect tourist weekend, but here’s a DC resident’s perfect weekend in our Nation’s Capitol.

FRIDAY NIGHT:  land in city and sleep in the guest room of your bestie’s house.

SATURDAY MORNING:  eat Bethesda Bagels.  Recommendation:  bacon, egg, and American cheese on an everything bagel.  Grab coffee at Quartermaine next door.  If you go with a friend one of you should order coffees while the other stands in line for bagels because, unless it’s snowing or raining the bagel line will be out the door.

SATURDAY ERRANDS:  close your old bank account.  Or, you know, whatever.

SATURDAY MORNING HANG-OUT: meet your best law school buddy for coffee at Politics and Prose Bookstore‘s Modern Times Coffeehouse, the place where you studied for all of those finals before they instituted completely unacceptable laptop policies that ruined everything forever.  Recommendation: London Fog.

SATURDAY LUNCH-ISH: brunch/lunch at Open City in Woodley Park.  We learned that the music makes babies dance.  The service can be a little slow so make sure to tell the waiter exactly what you want the first time.  Recommendation: Greek Pizza, BLT, iced mocha.

SATURDAY AFTERNOON HANG-OUT:  Smithsonian’s National Zoo.  Avoid boring pandas but be sure to see the Lions.  They are awesome.  Best part of America are the Smithsonian’s river otters.

SATURDAY DINNER: Coal Fire Pizza in Gaithersburg. Recommendation:  Dark and Stormy, Ring of Fire Pizza (Italian sausage, banana peppers, and spicy marinara).

SATURDAY POST-DINNER:  Celebrate your friend’s birthday back at her house with carrot cake and red wine.  They are a perfect pairing.

SUNDAY MORNING:  Grab a coffee and cheer for your husband and friends as they run a ten mile race around the National Mall.  Take in the monuments for a bit while it is sunny and relatively warm, but head toward brunch by 10:30.  It’s definitely time to eat.

SUNDAY BRUNCH:  Ted’s Bulletin on Barracks Row is a bit of a wait, but totally worth waiting for.  Recommendation: homemade poptarts (strawberry is the best), sausage biscuits and gravy.  If you’re lucky you’ll see the cadets marching around with their giant guns.

SUNDAY AFTERNOON: After a shower for the runners, head down to H Street to hang on the back patio of the German Biergarten.  Recommendation: the hefe-weizen that is “very carbonated,” pretzel buns with mustard.  The mustard is the best part.

SUNDAY EVENING: Return the rental car and grab your last dinner at The Silver Dinner, airport edition.

We landed in Chicago late Sunday night and it was technically early Monday morning before we were back in our Condo in the South Loop.  We both worked today and we are exhausted, but our wonderful weekend was worth every minute.

What I’m Loving — March 2014

Whew, where did March go?  I can’t believe it’s already time to link up with Leigh once again. 

WORK.  Is that a weird thing to say, that I’m loving work?  Well, I have been.  I started this month off with a business trip to Florida (thank you America), and have been doing hard, challenging work this entire month.  So basically, I’ve been living the dream.  [Literally.  Working incredibly hard every day is exactly what I want to do with my life.]

FRIENDS.  Oh, that’s right, we’re finally using the “f” word here in the Windy City.  I’m setting into some very enjoyable friendships/co-workerships in the office, which is starting to feel like a great fit.  On March 8, in honor of International Women’s Day, I met up with a half-dozen members of my writing group who also live in the greater Chicago area, for drinks and food and writerly hang outs.  I also attended my second Kappa Delta Alumnae Chapter event this month, grabbing dinner and meeting some new women in the city.  It’s so nice to have “people” once again.

Oh, and we’re still looking for a regular trivia night and trivia people around the loop/south loop.  Just an FYI in case there are any random internet stalkers close by. 

CHICAGO.  The weather is improving, the sun is shining more frequently and for longer stretches at a time, and I’m just plain loving Chicago.  Everything about it — the jazz music and the frumpy coats and the popcorn (oh the popcorn!) and the skylines and the way that the best restaurants use animals in their titles (“purple pig,” “little goat”).  My parents were here for a visit and we did basically nothing, but even still — I just love it here.  I didn’t think I would, but I do.

READING and WRITING.  This month has been all about l-e-a-d-e-r-s-h-i-p.  I’ve been reading blogs, articles, and am nearly finished with The Truth about Leadership (Kouzes/Posner 2010).  My favorite tidbit from the K&P’s Ten Truths reminds us that being a leader is all about relationships, and that you need to know the people you are leading and have the right kind of relationships with them to lead them toward positive change.  K&P teach leaders to know their values and visions for their organization, and to know their people — what makes them tick, what their visions are for the future — and to connect these organizational and personal dreams together.   I love it.

ON THE SCREEN.  Television has been kind of meh this month, eh?  (Shout out to my Canadian readers right there.)  I guess Nashville and Scandal are my top choices, but meh.  I also really like Blacklist most days but, meh.  Nothing is really catching my attention for very long.  This weekend we watched several movies, and I’ll give you mini-summaries:

  • Divergent — awesome(!) and now I want to read the books right now.  I’m going to try to purchase them before my DC flight on Friday night.
  • American Hustle — sad but good, with some lovely dresses.  Now I love Jennifer Lawrence a little more.
  • Frozen — what the what is all the fuss about here?  I don’t get how everyone talks about this so much.  Meh.

EATING/DRINKING. I’m a creature of habit, and this month I’ve found myself doing a few things over and over.  Drinking English Breakfast Tea all day long.  Mixing dried cherries, chocolate chips, and raw almonds for my own delicious trail mix.  Also, I’ve been cooking from Bread and Wine (Shauna Niequist) a lot.  I can’t stop loving that tiny little book.

HERE ON PINK-BRIEFCASE.  I’ve been practicing this little thing called speaking up.  Just a bit more than normal, but it’s something I want to do more.  My favorite posts here on the blog this month are

Well, there you are.  March in a nutshell.  April is going to be insane!  We’ll be out of town two out of four weekends.  I’ll be seeing some of my very best friends; trying on my writer hat for four days straight at a big fancy writing conference; and then pulling my lawyer hat out of the closet, grabbing a blazer (it’s been a while, blazers!), and heading to a legal training at the end of the month.  Hopefully I’ll finally get to wear all those new spring shoes I’ve been buying.

NOTE: my friends, our internet has been down to about 10% for days and it is so slow and terrible that I just couldn’t upload any photos for you today.  I also couldn’t really preview this post the way I normally do, so if there are typos here or anything looks weird, I apologize — leave me a note and I’ll try to edit them if we ever have consistent internet again. 

It’s Already/Only Thursday?

This week has been much too slow and much too fast. I thought that yesterday (Wednesday) was Friday, and was none too pleased to discover the truth. But somehow minutes are also flying by so quickly! I can barely keep up.

This weekend I did some of the things that make my weeks awesome — I put together a rockin’ meal plan (blog post coming soon!) did laundry and cleaned my room. I didn’t pick outfits, so I’m basically wearing different colored versions of dress-cardigan-tights-boots every day, but that’s okay. We can’t win every battle.

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(This is today’s lunch. I wasn’t kidding about our food being awesome this week. Curry chicken on quinoa with broccoli.)

My family is driving up today for a last-minute weekend in the city, and while surprises are typically not my jam I’m really excited! The weather is looking great for mid-March (although it did snow for one hour this morning), and since I’m starting to really love this city I’m happy to have them see it too.

So, I’m putting together a new Choose-Your-Own-Adventure plan for the weekend. It’s one of my favorite things to make! I had already put fajitas on the menu, but today Deb at the Smitten Kitchen has a recipe up too. Clearly this weekend is made for fajitas. We’ll try to get seated at Little Goat and might stop by a jazz club.

Any big plans for you this weekend? I’ll still have a Five Things post tomorrow, but I’m excited to take a little break from the usual.

#50daysawriter Update: The Half Way Point

As I’m typing this post, it’s the middle of the twenty-fifth day of my 5o-Day commitment to thinking of myself as a writer.  This won’t go live and you won’t be able to read it until sometime Monday morning, which is technically past the half-way point of this journey and eight hours into Day 26.  Let’s agree to ignore the actual math involved in defining the “middle” of a journey the way we agree to accept that television chefs always have perfectly baked final products ready to pull out of the oven and taste at the end of their thirty-minute episodes.  The middle of a journey is really whenever you end up stopping for lunch, isn’t it?

I’ve learned a few things about myself, written words and paragraphs in my journal and on my computer, and wasted a lot of time during these first 25 days.  I’ve been focused on my writing but also completely absorbed in my actual job, which is keeping me so incredibly busy during these early spring-ish months.  My brain is buzzing with stress and deadlines and ideas, and that seems like the perfect mix to me.

  • I tried a few coffee shops/writing locations near my apartment in Chicago and have adopted a location three blocks away.  There are outlets everywhere, the espresso drinks are delicious, and the coffee shop is operated by some church so I feel better spending $5.00 on something I could make for myself at home.  I’m here now, and a poster from an event at the Ryman Auditorium is hanging on the wall that faces my table.  I’m sitting in the sun, looking at the words “Nashville Tennessee” and drinking a latte with chocolate, hazelnut, and cayenne pepper.  I can’t think of a better way to nurture my creative insides.
  • During a ten-day bootcamp with my writing group, I chose a topic for my writing project (even if I’m not quite ready to call it a book), told my writing group what my topic was, and felt the soothing coolness of positive feedback and acceptance calm my nerves.  I also mustered the courage to reach out to a few friends about my silly dream, so I’ve taken the first few steps toward using the “w”-word [writer] with my real-life friends and family.
  • I have 4,000 words, notes, and research in a highly rough and scattered word document that has the headings and pagination of a non-fiction book proposal. It’s not actually a book proposal today, but I’m using that structure to sketch out my project.  Working in this format is oddly comforting, because it is exactly what real writers do for every book they write.  I’ve found the language of the world I’m walking in, and I’m ready now to meet people without feeling like a fraud:  I can spend the next five years saying that I’m “working on a book proposal” before anyone that doesn’t know me well might become suspicious.  It’s completely normal for that process to take forever and for “real” writers to get distracted for months, discouraged for years, or otherwise lose focus for a long while before getting a final proposal together.  I know how to introduce myself and vaguely describe my project, so I’m ready to rent a car and drive to Grand Rapids and meet other writerly people.  That goal is officially accomplished.
  • My friend Abby has scheduled a public event at the end of the conference in Grand Rapids where my writing group will take turns reading our work out loud.  To strangers (and worse, to our friends).  While the pre-#50days me would say oh, no, I’m not really a writer and so I will just cheer the rest of you on, the me that is 25 days into being a real writer has [unfortunately] accepted the challenge and promised to find something, anything really, to read.  I’m much more driven by external expectations of those I love than my own secret dreams, so I think this is actually the perfect thing to push me during the second-half of this journey:  I have an idea and some draft-quality words, but now I need a chapter-ish length piece that is good enough to share, along with a gallon of confidence and a cute new outfit.  In the next three weeks I need to finish a draft piece so I can edit it, and then prepare to present it with/to my people.

This effort hasn’t been on my mind every minute, and for the last few days at work my brain has been swimming in deadlines and spreadsheets and official communication materials, but I’m here on Sunday afternoon, as scheduled, thinking about this project.  I’m thrilled with how far I’ve come in these first three and one-half weeks and am proud to share with you that I am working on a book/something proposal and preparing a mystery piece to read at my first ever reading as a [writer].  Nothing really has changed just yet, but I am starting to believe my own truth.

Thanks for joining me on this adventure.

St.PattyDayShoutOut

 

Oh, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Lucky Family!  AOT 

Three Things for Wednesday

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Well, Chicago has more snow. About five inches last night brought this winter’s snow totals to the third-highest ever or, according to CBS News, an inch over Michael Jordan’s head. Apparently we are measuring weather patterns in local sports heroes these days.

I have red fingernails today. It’s a small thing, but they make me feel cheerful which is much needed in this wintry weather. My friend Megan recommended the julep maven box, and in my first box I received a beautiful classic red color called Myrtle. (To be honest I feel a little less cool now because the name Myrtle reminds me of someone’s grandmother.) I’m not sure I can really use a monthly nail polish subscription, since I usually purchase nail polish maybe twice a year, but the first one was free and really fun.

We’re eating a lot of fish and shrimp this week and I am loving it. Fish, rice, and veggies is my perfect dinner because it’s pretty healthy, so there are tons of calories left for evening chocolate.

That’s three things random for this Wednesday morning! What’s going on in your week?

What I’m Into, February 2014

Well, hellooooo, March.  I am so happy to see you!  I am living for spring weather, and I have faith that sometime in March I’ll experience at least one sunny Chicago day with temperatures above 40 degrees.  A faith that can move mountains.  But, before we get too far into March, I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer to share What I Was Into in February 2014.

feb 2014 wiit

Valentine’s Day Weekend!  I made my first batch of home-steamed mussels, we attended a couples cooking class, had dinner at Chicago’s The Purple Pig, spent an evening at an historic Chicago Jazz Club, and grabbed coffee and brownies at a friend’s church’s brand-new coffee venture.  It was a jam-packed, wonderful weekend.

Shoe shopping.  With a gift card from the holidays and my January clothing budget, I was very responsible and purchased cognac flats and heels (the perfect neutral in my opinion), leopard-printed black flats, a new pair of boots to  replace my favorite boots that bit the dust this year, and a new spring-ish bag.  I’ve always worn one favorite pair of shoes until they absolutely fall apart, and I’m excited to try being a grownup and rotating shoes to match outfits.

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Mariano’s.  You guys.  Mariano’s is the perfect grocery store.  It’s a perfect mix of Publix and Whole Foods, with a very low price point.  They have wine tastings on the weekend and you can get sushi or sandwiches or pizza to eat in the store or take home, their butchers are so friendly and will grill up meat for you right there (although, why you would want that I have no idea), their cheese selection is fantastic and their bakery breads are fresh and tasty.  Every time I walk into Mariano’s I think about Heaven.

Kappa Delta.  I attended my first KD alumnae event in Chicago this month, and it was so fun!  I met a few ladies that had definite friend potential, and I was so happy to reconnect with an old friend/advisor who served as a consultant when I was KD president WAY back in the day.  And then, she wrote a blog post in my honor!  It popped up on facebook and I was so incredibly flattered.  Isn’t it wonderful to find such lovely friends in all kinds of places.

On the TV:  Fringe.  I started watching this completely weird show on my sick days in the last week of January.  H got interested and we watched all five seasons together this month.  We barely watched the Olympics because we were so into Fringe.  It is sciency and weird but it has a good love story and if you’re looking for a show to watch as a couple, I highly recommend it.  Although I didn’t love the ending.

Reading:  nothing new.  I’m still plodding along through Blanski’s When Donkeys Talk.  I’ve read a ton of blog posts and magazine articles and such (check back each Friday for the week’s top reads!), but no books have been completed.

skyline dusk

It’s been a long, cold winter, but I’m loving our new city and so excited to spend this Spring and Summer getting to know Chicago better.  Photo (above) taken from Promontory Point, looking north toward Chicago’s skyline.

Well, that’s a quick run-down of February’s highlights!  What were you up to in February? 

 

 

Date Night: Cooking Class

As part of our three-day Valentine’s Day extravaganza, H reserved us two spots in a weekend cooking class.  [Don’t make too many assumptions here.  We don’t really do that lovey-dovey holiday stuff, but it was a great excuse to try a few new places and do something fun.]

We headed over to The Wooden Spoon in Uptown Chicago for a class called Cook and Eat Like a Francophile.  I was expecting bistro sandwiches, things to pair with brie on a cheese platter,  or some kind of pastry since it was a lunch-time class, but I was really wowed by the menu.  We “made” shrimp bisque, fancy chicken with sauce, french-style bitter lentils, the most delicious green beans ever, and a weird pudding-berry-custard dessert.  Or, as the French would call it,

  • Shrimp Bisque;
  • French Lentils with Honey Cashews;
  • Green Bean Salad with Basil and Tomatoes;
  • Poulet Sauté Chasseur; and
  • Mixed Berries Gratin (not pictured).

Wooden Spoon Meal

Cooking classes are, overall, kind of weird but really fun.  We didn’t fully cook any one single thing, because about a dozen people were helping with different stages of preparation.  Everyday cooking would be so much easier if I had a half-dozen sous chefs to do all of my prep-work and measuring for me!  We were tasked with chopping a few things, stirring a few things, and draining the lentils — but, most importantly, we got to eat everything.  I would have perhaps liked a little more hands-on time than this class size provided, but we made some new friends and had a lovely time.

Sharing our love of food with strangers was comfortable and warm.  A few other couples, a few friend groups, and two adult sons with their dad on his 68th birthday chopped and sautéed and ate this beautiful meal with us.  (I remembered again how lucky I am to have such an awesome mom while watching a young woman search for help when asked to stir the pot, but not so often that the veggies wouldn’t brown.)  Even the vegetarian we were partnered with loved learning about each of the recipes and promised to cook the bisque again for her fiance if he would handle the shrimp-y parts.

It may sound unimpressive, but our favorite dish of the day was the green bean salad.  The green beans were blanched (well, more like double-blanched because they were almost done when they came out of the boiling water), chilled, and then tossed in a freshly made Dijon vinaigrette and served alongside sliced, salted tomatoes.  It was perfect spring/early summer picnic food, and all-in-all a pretty healthy dish.

The Wooden Spoon has a cooking tools shop (and provides knife sharpening for their customers for only $3) so we purchased a little salad dressing bottle to take home with us for storing our own homemade vinaigrettes in the future.  H has been mixing up balsamic and olive oil for our salads for the last few weeks and I’ve been food-dreaming about the vinaigrette recipe in Shauna Niequist’s book Bread and Wine, which is pretty close to what we made in class that day.  This weekend we’ll be purchasing some red wine vinegar and eating this dressing on everything in sight.

Would you ever go to a cooking class?  Have any favorite salad dressing recipes? 

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