Saturday, July 24, 2010

Stix & The City

What a busy week its been!  First the dueling blog is now up and running.  You should check it out here.  Second the oldest came home this week and she brought her step sister with her!  So we have been running about doing very touristy things.  On Monday we took the girls to Navy Pier and on the Tall Windy ship.  However it wasn't that windy on Monday so it was a slow easy ride, but still fun.  The best part of the day for the girls was when they went through the "fun maze" on the pier.  This was also really fun for us because we could watch them on hte hidden cameras the whole time!  On Tuesday we got a little bit of a late start to our morning  so we met my other half for lunch at the Rainforest Cafe.  The girls had such a blast there (the baby did too!)  Afterwards we did the most touristy thing of all.  We took a double decker trolley ride around the city.  This was so cool and if you ever have people visiting Chicago for the first time definitely spend the money on this.  The ticket is good up to three days and while we were out and about we were able to see some of the filming of the new Transformers movie!

The next day, and last day her step sister was in town, we ended her trip with a visit to the Shed Aquarium and an afternoon at the beach.  It was exhausting!

On Thursday the girls and I packed up and went to Valparaiso IN to visit Ms. Ritter, one of my dearest friends.  While sitting on the porch with the Valpo girls something was mentioned about some places around here you could actually use your boat to go to and from the city by the connecting waterways.  I sent Him a message telling him about this and got a response saying if we find a house that would make it worth living in Indiana then we can do it.  Well that was all the girls needed to hear.  The search was on and before to long we found two amazing houses.  This is the first one I found.  Its on the lake with its own private beach.  He could literally boat to work every day.  So this house was obviously very cool for obvious reasons but then I found another house that blew my mind.

House # two.  This house is in Valpo.  It sits on almost a full acre.  It has an indoor heated pool.  It has an enclosed hot tub.  5 bedrooms.  Full finished basement.  The pictures intrigued me and it wasn't far so we took a ride to see it.  We passed the lane up twice because the house sits so far off the road.  When we pulled down the lane there was this little guy there waiting to greet us.  (I guess technically it would be a girl)  Either way, I completely fell head over heels in love.

The yard and location of this place blew me away!  On one side is a forest preserve with bike paths and zip lines going through.  On the other side is a butterfly park.  There are two mature apple trees growing in the front yard and the backyard is lined with raspberry bushes.  The house is located extremely close to all three schools.  The way the hot tub and enclosed pool sits I could foresee a huge patio with an outdoor kitchen for him complete with a brick oven and fire pit.  After that the yard is still large enough to have a giant garden and room for chickens.  In the corner of the yard is a playhouse already standing for the girls to pretend in.  I could see the oldest doing gymnastic tricks and having pool parties with her friends and the baby running around and exploring the outside world with that wide eyed innocent look that only lasts for a few years.

Unfortunatly it is an hour away from Chicago and he doesn't quite see things as whimsically as I.  So here are a few Pro's and Con's I came up with.


  • The girls will have a safe, clean environment to run around and explore nature in
  • We could have some bitching parties and great family fun nights at home
  • It is located in a great school district and close to all schools (elementary middle high)
  • I already have a good support system of other moms who really care about me and our family
  • We would be in a place that isn't hectic and it would be easier for us to slow down and enjoy each other
  • We could teach the girls how to garden to help them appreciate the food that they eat and teach them a valuable life lesson.
  • He would have the most amazing patio and man cave ever known.
  • There would be plenty of space for our friends and family to come visit us (and stay for a while) with lots of fun relaxing things to do right in our backyard.


  • Winters are a bitch
  • He would have to commute and it would take a lot of time off of family time
  • He would miss being around his friends
  • Getting the oldest to the train station to see her dad would be more difficult
  • We would have to get a car
  • He would hate his life most of the time.

I wish there were a way to pick this house up and move it here to our neighborhood.  However for what that house is listed for it would get us this awesome place here in Lincoln Park.

Last night I made some homemade bread and butter.  I've made bread before but never butter.  It was so much fun!  I found after the fact an easier way to make it then what I did.  I put heavy cream in a jar and shook it for about 20-30 minutes.  I then found this on the internet and will definitely try it the easy way next time.

I also made a delicious bread that was super easy.  However I find that its lacking flavor so next time I make this I'm going to try putting some more herbs in it.

Easy Schmeasy Bread

2 C warm water
1 package of yeast
1 tsp honey
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
5-6 C flour of your choice

Prepare the yeast - Take two cups of warm (about 100 degrees) water and mix together with yeast until its well blended.  Add honey and let sit and rest for about 10 minutes.  

Once the yeast is frothy blend it with oil and salt.  Stir in one cup of flour at a time until  your dough has a bit of elasticity to it and isn't to sticky to handle.

Lightly flour a clean surface and start kneading your dough.  You'll want to keep at this for about 10-15 minutes.  You'll know its ready when you poke the dough and it springs back towards you without leaving a dimple.  Clean your bowl and grease it with some butter.  Put your dough back into the bowl and swirl it around to coat the outside evenly with the butter.  Cover with a damp cloth and let it sit for about an hour and a half or so.

(Literally) punch the dough back into its original form and knead it for a few more minutes.  Cut it in half and make either two loaves or braids with the dough.  (If you decide to make loaves make sure you grease your pan.)  Cover with a damp cloth and let sit for another hour.  Once its doubled  in size brush with melted butter and add any type of seasoning to the top that you want.  Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  


Monday, July 19, 2010

Brand New Beginnings

This past weekend we packed the family up and drove down south to attend a wedding of two very good friends of mine.  It was great to go home and see all of my friends and most of my family.  I started thinking about how much I missed home and started wishing I could return there for good.  I mean, here I am in Chicago, all by myself when everyone who I have always loved, the best friends a girl could ever ask for and my giant family are all not only living next to each other, they're hang out together and I deeply miss every single one of them.  It seems I am isolating my self as a form of cruel and unusual punishment.  There is only one reason for this self inflicted punishment.  "Him". Although it really stinks somedays, I feel my apartness from them is worth it as long as he is still around.

Before we went to this wedding I gave him my usual pep talk on how to play nice with the others, what topics he is not allowed to talk about and just a general "be nice" warning.  I am pleased to announce he was as compatible with the other patrons as he possibly could be.  However he did sneak off to hang out with other tables through out the night so if he did piss someone off I could have just missed it.  But at the end of it all, while we were walking out of the hotel the next morning to began our long and painful trek back to the city, the mother of the bride hugged him and told him she was so glad to meet him.  He either did a good job at his first impression or he just has a way with the ladies.

The wedding was beautiful and we had a great time attending. However the best part of the whole weekend was bringing Rhiannon home with us!  Her step-sister is also here until Wednesday.  It has been a great time so far.  The two of them are so sisterly towards each other.  Its strange to see Rhiannon acting like that!  Some of the things they do make me remember my eldest sister and I when we were that age.  We have a very packed but fun week ahead!  We plan on dragging those girls all over the city!

Finally, keeping on with brand new beginnings, my little sister and I are starting to look into different ways we can create a rooftop garden at Rhiannons school.  We assessed the building and are looking into finding grants and looking at building codes.  Our goal is to have a specific rough draft plan to present to the principal.  I am really excited to delve deeper into this project.  If anybody out there knows of a less painful way to go about getting grants or knows of any type of "green" business that likes to help neighborhood schools out in the Chicago area please let me know!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Piggy Wigglies

Look what I found, Mama....

All Things American

I woke up the other day to my boyfriend scouring craigslist.  I let hin be for about a half of an hour before my mind started getting carried away with me.  Who really looks at craigslist for that long unless they are looking for apartments?  It seems like we are always moving as soon as we get settled into a place and the topic has come up recently.  I went to confront him (very calmly and not like an emotional girl would at all) only to find out he had been looking up cars to buy.  For me.  To make it easier for me to visit my friends and family.  (He has a way of making me feel ridiculous.  This is one of the times when I had to instantly put my foot in my mouth.)

The next day I listened all afternoon to him bitch.  Our conversations went something like this.

"God Dammit!  We're going to have to find parking spots!  Do you know how much of a pain in the ass that is? "

"We can get a space in a garage close by."

"Great, thats going to cost more money.  And insurance.  I don't want to get insurance.  You need to find me insurance and the best deal too.  What kind of car do you want to get?"

"I'd like a civic."

"F*&;% that.  I'm not getting a f*&;^ing Civic."

"How about a Jetta? Or  a golf?  They have great safety ratings and good gas mileage?"

"F*&;% that.  I'm not getting a f*%#!ing Volkswagen either.  Lets look at Jaguars. If we're going to get a car it might as well be something good.  God dammit!  I'll never be able to retire now."

This went on round after round until finally he said.  All right you need to find a car, an insurance plan and a parking space.  This is our budget.  We need it in five days.

I spent the rest of the afternoon looking at cars, getting insurance quotes and trying to find the best parking spot.  The biggest problem I ran into was our lack of knowledge of cars today.  Neither of us has had a car in years and haven't heard of most of the cars that are on the market.  He veto'd the safest cars on the road and surprisingly, the Jaguars weren't in the budget he alloted.  After devoting my whole day to this challenge I decided getting a car wasn't worth it, especially since it made him so unhappy.  I emailed him at work, told him he was right and it would be a silly purchase.  His response was this, "I got all that out of my system and I really think we need a car now with the baby."


So the search is on.  I have no idea what we will end up with, or what we are even looking for but however the outcome I'm sure the journey will be hilarious.

On to better news, its peach season!  There is nothing that makes me quite as happy as fresh peaches.  While we were at the farmers market the other day I felt we needed three quarts of fresh peaches.  Since we now had a plethera of ripe, juicy, delicious fruit that needed to be eaten soon I decided to make the most delicious peach and strawberry pie.

For the past year my grandma has been lovingly talking me through my blunders while I attempted to perfect my pie crust.  (Who knew Crisco oil and Crisco shortening would provide two completely different devastating results?  I now it know.  That was a messy and gross learning experiment.)  Finally all the hard work, botched pie crusts and long distance phone calls have finally paid off.  I made the most delicious flaky crust and couldn't be prouder.  (Thanks Grandma!)



2 c flour
1 tsp salt
12 tbsp of butter or shortening
4-6 tbsp ice water

In a bowl mix flour and salt together.  Cut in your shortening using two knives until the mixture resembles small peas.  Sprinkle in cold water 1 tbsp at a time until mixture is moistened and sides of bowl are clean.  Divide your dough in half.  Put in two separate plastic wraps and place in the fridge for at least 45 minutes.  Roll out the dough for top and bottom of pie crust.


3 c of peaches peeled and diced
3 c of strawberries washed and sliced
1 c sugar
1/2 c flour

Put strawberries in bowl and add 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup flour mixing well to coat evenly.  Put peaches in separate bowl and add remaining sugar and flour and mix together.  Let the fruit sit for at least ten minutes.  This will help to release the juices from the fruit.  Put bottom crust into your pie pan and add fruit.  You can mix the fruit together if you want, however they will stay in separate sections if you'd like to swirl them or make different sections.  Add top crust making sure to cut a few holes on top let steam escape.  

Bake at 425 for 20 minutes.  Lower the temperature to 325.  Pie is done when the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling.  I usually put tin foil over the crust for the first half of baking so the top crust doesn't burn. 



Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Originally uploaded by shuf1shuff


That being said its beet season and I made a delicious and easy beet salad the other day.

1 to 2 good size beets
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
3 garlic cloves minced
2-3 scallions or shallot tops diced

Start off by cutting the tops and bottoms or your beets and place them in boiling water for at least 45 minutes so they are nice and tender. When you can stick a fork in them run the beets under cold water and slip their skins off. Dice them and put them in a bowl with all your other ingredients. Stir to coat evenly and enjoy!


I've started this blog for many reasons.  One major reason is to try and straighten out my twisted mind.  Another is to share our crazy ridiculous life with loved ones from afar and last I want to meet new foodie friends who enjoy making and eating all sorts of delicious eats.

Once upon a time not long ago I used to care about things.  And I mean REALLY care.  About animals in particular.  I then was a vegetarian.   I used to  only by products that were not tested on animals.  I was so extreme with this that there is a video of me in a college speech class demonstrating the different contraptions they put animals in while making sure your shampoo is safe for you.  When my then six year old daughter saw an Aussie hair product in our bathroom she came running up to me with fear in her eyes saying "Mom! They test on animals!  Why do we have this?"  I was so proud of her at that moment.  I lived with four cats.  I would sing from the top of my lungs while my roommate played guitar on our porch until the wee hours of the night.  I would only buy fair trade.  I listened to community radio.  I volunteered.  I felt like I could make some sort of a difference in this world.

Over the past three years I have morphed into a completely different person.  For example, today I had the most delicious chicken hot wing burger for lunch.  I have Procter and Gamble products all over my house.  (They are the worst offenders of animal testing.  They know what they are doing is cruel and inhumane yet still do it every day.)  I live with a wonderful man who is allergic to all things cute and hairy.  I don't even listen to my cd's.  I feel like I don't do anything of substance anymore and its not because I can't, I just have had a hard time feeling like I still care.  

Until now.  Recently I started reading Made From Scratch Discovering The Pleasures Of A HandmaIde Life by Jenna Woginrich.  This book makes me want to go back to (parts of) that girl I used to be.  I still want chickens, very badly, but I am going to attempt to bring a little more substance back into our lives.  This year I'm going to bring us back to what really matters.