Fighting the Annoying with the Awesome

It's been a day where I can write a short mental list of the things going wrong, or adding annoyance to my day:

1. I somehow chipped a tooth (after an exceptionally mushy meal that included tofu even!)
2. Two plumbers later and still no diagnosis of the leak in our ceiling...and now a member of our condo association is suggesting we should pay! Read your IL Property & Condo Act!
3. Oh yeah, a dog kind of bit me on Friday. No damage done, but my coat was definitely clasp between his jaws momentarily and my leg took a nip.
4. Back-orders from Amazon
5. Two weeks of consistently good diet and lots of exercise and my weight is stagnant. What?!

So, it's a good time for a visit to 1000 Awesome Things. Like:

Picking up a Q and a U at the same time in Scrabble.

Using hotel lobby bathrooms when you’re out walking around
I've done it, and it's like the best secret of travel. This one is actually at the Sydney Opera House. I can't remember if it was me or James who had to go to the bathroom, but after one of us went in, the other was strongly advised to see it for themselves too. Most beautiful public restroom in the world. The first shower you take after not showering for a long time. Like after any junior high camping trip.

The first scoop out of a jar of peanut butterBakery air, which makes me breathe more deeply on my walk to the train station every morning, so I can enjoy the morning's work. Here are the pretty cupcakes we enjoyed during last night's book group. (More on that later.)That one really good pen that never gets lost


For my Philly folk, you might enjoy these letterpress prints, via Etsy.
City Skyline PrintPhiladelphia Print, with signature Liberty Bell crackLove Park decal for your Mac laptopAnd don't forget the Ork poster of the city.

Most Adorable Jazz Ensemble

Wishes Juliet a happy birthday!
(The auditions were also crazy cute. Here and here.

Pursuing Liberty Harder Than a Colonist

Since Target is a big let-down, I did actually find myself wondering if it'd just be easier to buy real Liberty of London stuff. But then I remembered that I'm totally bourgeoisie and don't have that kind of money (hence why I shop in Target like everyone else.)

So as a public service announcement, I direct you to wonderful, reliable Etsy for some Liberty fixes. (Some still carry the Liberty price tag, but there are smaller items with correspondingly smaller prices.)

Fleur's Dreamy Blouse
Clutch purse
...or two!Teddy BearButtons, maybe a sweet embellishment for a regular old cardigan?MagnetsThrow pillows (Don't worry Jason, I won't get those. Even though they are so plump and cute!)Coin purseAnd of course, a supplies search yields yards of fabric that could be crafted into another custom kindle cover.

London Calling... No Answer

All the excitement over Target's new Liberty of London collection and what a disappointment it's been. Everything sold out on the website, like they must have only held quantities of 3 for each item. I went to the store, basket in hand eager to hit the clothing, lounge wear, garden, and home decor sections and found precious little inventory. The items that were there were either far too small or too large for me. The tops felt super cheap, and the styling was kind of bizarre, mumu-like tops with ruffles around the bottom. Why add a flounce when the fabric itself is embellishment enough?In the Garden section, they don't even bother showing the watering cans and gardening gloves you can't get any more. I was so mad that I tossed my basket back into the stack at the door and walked out empty-handed. Probably the first time I'd gone to Target and not purchased a single item.

What a disappointment! Target, why hype something up so much, and then leave us eager buyers disgruntled??! So mad.

More Than Just Hot Air

It just occurred to me just today, that balloons are not very expensive.

But when you're a little kid, they are rare, precious gold. So valuable that the ribbon that holds the balloon to the earth is tied to your wrist, and then just to be sure you hold it very tight in your hand also. Your hand gets clammy and hot, just in case that balloon should escape.

As kids we'd put a heavy blanket over a helium balloon at night, so that less of the air would leak out overnight!

One of the happiest days of my life (seriously) was the evening in a Toronto hotel room, where my mom, sister and I were just hanging out and watching tv, waiting for my Dad to come back from a conference reception downstairs. He returned and asked if Juliet and I would like to get changed out of our pajamas and come downstairs because there was apparently a Canadian beaver or woodchuck or something on display in the banquet room. We dressed up to see the little brown animal (whatever it was) and as the staff were tidying up, they asked if we'd like the balloons decorating the room. ALL of the balloons. We took every single one, squeezing into the hotel elevator with Dad, and then surprising mom with our entrance back into the hotel room.

In my mind, we were the richest little girls in Canada.

I've never put it together, despite the fact that the balloon and floral area is right by the entrance to my supermarket, but if I have a daughter someday I could literally buy her a balloon any day of the week.

But maybe not this many...

Loving Lately

I am lately loving Ann Taylor LOFT. In an addictive, multiple visits kind of way. (No doubt reinforced by picking up a great staple (black cowl neck sweater) for $10 the other week!)Unfortunately, their website is a little vanilla. You're missing some of the great details and spirit. I should have just taken pictures of my closet!

And since J. Crew's CEO was heard criticizing LOFT for overpaying their designers, his charge being that they are just ripping off his company's aesthetic, it's no surprise that I am thinking I need another Jackie cardigan from J. Crew. I wore this one once per week...for the last three weeks! But each time as part of a different outfit. Versatile, comfy, and machine-washable! And maybe if LOFT's imitation at a lower cost could coax J. Crew's prices down, that'd be wonderful. For spring, I'm thinking seashore green?Or shocking pink? And sneak this in the shopping cart too!
p.s. For teachers out there, LOFT has a special program where teachers get discounts everyday! Makes sense since their clothing is both polished to help you convey authority and comfortable for when you're pulling kids off the jungle gym.

Wednesday's Dinner

I crafted this healthy meal Wednesday night: Barilla wholegrain rotini, tossed in olive oil with fresh basil, peas and grilled chicken breast. I'm not sure what it says that I spend the time on the treadmill dreaming up what I'll pick up at the grocery store to eat! The pasta was a special treat, even as whole grain. Piper hoped for a bite of chicken, before retiring to the box that's become her clubhouse lately.

L-O-V-E Cute Overload

This is totally why Cute Overload is the best place to visit when you are having a bad day at work. Their captions make what's already so hilarious and adorable even better.

I Get by With a Little Help From My Friends

The secret to the success of the Plan (so far!) has definitely been the fact that I have a buddy. Someone who's also doing their best to stay on track with healthy eating and exercise. And no doubt, blogging about it helps me stay honest too.

Juliet even recently helped by pointing me to Prevention Magazine's 5-Minute Flat Belly Meals. At first I was a little envious, since Juliet's become the super mom and homemaker lately. I imagine her balancing baby on one hip, teaching her French, while marinating meat, and also sewing a little dress on the side. Meanwhile her husband brews his own beer!
My commute alone doesn't give me the time! But sure enough, the first line of the article read, "If you think you're too busy to whip up waistline-friendly meals..." I was totally called out, by name! And then advised of "monounsaturated fatty acids" which are in foods like avocado (love!) and olives (blech.)

The plates look a little like rabbit food, but that's also been my meals lately. Tonight was my own recipe of turkey, avocado, egg wraps.

Did anyone else grow up with the hard-boiled eggs in the refrigerator labeled "H" with a pencil? (Besides you, Juliet!) It makes me nostalgic. Then my favorite kitchen tool, the egg slicer. Instead of bread, I use big leafy romaine lettuce. (I'm thinking of it for turkey tacos next week.)
And here is a healthy meal that I calculate to be only about 300 calories!The rabbit food metaphor is appropriate for Easter, I think. And also for the treat I'm hoping to have be my allowed sweet this week: Cadbury Creme Eggs!But I must stay focused, especially since my milestone reward will be a fun pair of frivolous shoes. Now that's an Easter basket! A little farther to go before the Zappos bunny arrives.

Because I Can't Decide

Because I can never decide, and sometimes more is better, I am enjoying a glass of Seven Daughters white wine this evening. Yum, yum, yum. It's a mix of seven different grapes: French Colombard, Chardonnay, Riesling, Symphony, Orange Muscat, Gew├╝rztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc (so says their website). And yes, their marketing guesses that you as a woman saw the label and thought, "Oooh, daughters, that's me!" But, it is. (Even though the website photos are a little cheesy.)

A wine purist might suggest that this just mushes everything together that you can't truly appreciate any one, but I like it. And isn't this what drinking wine should sort of be about? Especially when today's calorie count also allows for a glass, by my guess.

They also have a contest to write in and say why you and three girlfriends deserve a weekend in New York City. I'll have to think about this, but yes, we deserve it. I'd need a trip for at least eight though!

The Plan: Update

An update on le fitness plan. Going well, with some differences seen on both the scale and the waistline.

I've been going to the gym nearly every other night, but the biggest lifestyle change has been the diet. I confess to looking longingly at the plump, golden sesame seed bagels every time I open the freezer, but I've been reaching below them to grab frozen vegetables for dinner. Without sweets, breads and pasta, the trip to the grocery store took longer as I wandered the aisles wondering, "what can I eat?"

Seriously, it's reminded me of reading Angela's Ashes where Frank McCourt remembered being so hungry that the idea of an egg was cause for rapture. While reading, I got so wrapped up in the story that even when I opened my refrigerator, full of other foodstuffs, I'd see the egg tray and think, breathlessly, "An EGG!!"

I was quite happy to realize that an egg is totally ok with the Plan.

One tool that's been helping is keeping track of my calories and exercise on's Daily Plate. At first I was a little loath to see all the Lance Armstrong embellishment on the website, but they've toned it down. (I actually kind of bore a personal grudge against LA's ego when the Daily Plate was first bought up by his conglomerate of self-promotion.) Now I'm shocked to consider how many calories I was eating before, particularly on the night's of burgers, onion rings and beer.

But it must be getting to me, since I've been dreaming of biking and running... and maybe it's my mind connecting it my friend Sura (the "coach" and resident of Maine), since the other night I dreamed of running in Maine (even though I've never been there.)

Reading or is it Now Kindling?

Thinking about reading on the new Kindle, is that called kindling? Does it feel wrong to anyone else that this instead sounds like you're burning the book?

Anyway, besides reading "Marry Him Now!" for our book group, which I've already feathered with many post-its and comments in the margins, I'm also enjoying The Help by Kathryn Stockett. This reviewer's summary captures the book's essence:
“Set in the rural South of the 1960's, THE HELP is a startling, resonant portrait of the intertwined lives of women on opposite sides of the racial divide. Stockett's many gifts – a keen eye for character, a wicked sense of humor, the perfect timing of a natural born storyteller – shine as she evokes a time and place when black women were expected to help raise white babies, and yet could not use the same bathroom as their employers. Her characters, both white and black, are so fully fleshed they practically breathe – no stock villains or pious heroines here. I'm becoming an evangelist for The Help. Don't miss this wise and astonishing debut.”
–Joshilyn Jackson, Bestselling author of Gods in Alabama

I'm comfortable reading the kindle, maybe more than I thought I'd be in my initial assessment. It worked very well for travel, since it's so slim and light to slide into my bag.
Although it occurs to me that it's impossible to lend a friend a good book you've read on the kindle. You will have to take my word for it and get it yourself, I suppose.

Give me Liberty

I'm kind of interested to see what will arrive in store when Liberty of London comes to Target. It's pretty and ornate and simple at the same time. Very English garden party.
It's also probably somethings that would have worked better in my bachelorette apartment, rather than my married home. Jason already has objections regarding the number of throw pillows that entered his life, appearing suddenly in numbers like little children that had been hiding under my skirts when we met. I hear there will be lounge wear and dresses, and the ads show a watering can I might really need. Or at least "need." In the meantime, there are phone and desktop wallpapers at

Night Out: Graham Elliot

Whenever I'm in the mood for a good dinner out, I turn to PBS for "Check, Please!" a restaurant review show that features three locals recommending their favorite Chicago restaurant, which is then also visited and reviewed by the other two guests. They meet to discuss their meals with host, Alpana Singh. (You might know her from her wine world accolades.) The best episode was when they resurrected an unaired episode of Check Please! featuring then state senator Barack Obama.

Upon the recommendation of Check Please! (and also recently featured in Time Out Chicago) we dined at Graham Elliot last Saturday night. It was inspired by Jason after he watched me puzzle over doing our condo association taxes the other week. (Ugh.)

The chef, Graham Elliot Bowles, has a reputation as a rock and roller (he knows the Kings of Leon and was chef to Lollapalooza) and the dining experience is meant to be a little irreverent. Instead of bread, you're served popcorn tossed in white truffle oil, parmesan, and chives. Yummy, and probably better for my new diet. The restaurant's website is even funny when you click to turn off the music, little headphones go on the carrot at the top of the page.The chef offered Foiellipops, foie gras circles rimmed with pop rocks and served on a stick. I had to try them. We did pause when Jason said, "Foie gras makes me kind of sad." Yeah.My cocktail "Ruby Slippers" was okay, since it had a bitter/bland finish, when I'd hoped for more sweet, fun, and fizzy since it included ginger ale. But we rallied when the Caesar salad came with a brioche twinkie filled with cream cheese. (Not on the diet plan.) As I enjoyed the scallops and Jason the lamb we could name the music in the background: Phoenix, then Queen. Another characteristic of the casual and hip ambiance. I'm not sure if this is why I woke up the next morning with "Pretender" by Madonna in my head.

It's My New Bicycle

Although there's likely at least one more cold snap or snowfall left in Chicago's winter, I wanted a bike for the summer. Shopping early was the strategy, since Jason had heard last year that good used bikes a get snapped up early in the spring, and don't return again until late fall. After taking a test drive around the block I was happy with the ride and took this one home. It's a little scruffy here and there, but the bike shop checked all its parts before putting it up for sale. Best of all, the price was right! I think I actually got the least expensive women's bike in the store.Better glamor shots will follow when it's out and about on the bike trails for the summer. Which I think we'll do at least once. Remember the roller blades? I've used them maybe twice.
But at least I already know how to ride a bike.
I must be feeling cabin fever, because I also signed up for an early 5k today! (April 10th, a day when average temperatures range from 38-55 degrees.)

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