Kelly the Culinarian

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Sneak Peek: First Look for Charity 2018

Ah, my favorite time of the year is almost here again! For the past three years, the Chicago Auto Show's First Look for Charity has been the best event I attend and the greatest reason to buy a nice dress (See 2015, 2016 and 2017).

Every year, #FLFC18 raises money for local charities at a black-tie preview of the auto show. We get dressed up, wine and dine, drool over fancy cars and raise money for charity. In fact, last year was a record-setting year, and this year is on track to do the same. Here's a primer if you're new here:

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a preview afternoon for the show which included a ton of tasty bites from local restaurants and an overview of how this event makes a difference. It's the largest single-day fundraiser in Chicago, and several of the charities rely upon it to provide services to the community year round. While the price of the tickets is steep ($275), almost all of the ticket price is tax-deductible ($233) and you can specify at the time of purchase which charities your ticket will benefit.

In my opinion, the value is so much more than that. I love the excuse to get dressed up, and it's amazing how many new and interesting food vendors show up every year. Not to mention being able to get up close and personal with a flock of cars I can't afford, such as this $168,000 beauty I oggled at the preview luncheon:

So onto the food. My favorite item is this barbecue-topped macaroni and cheese (very diet friendly).

But if that doesn't suit your fancy, there are plenty of other options.

Every year, the desserts are amazing. Andy's Frozen Yogurt always has this insane make your own sundae bar and the night does not end until I've hit that up. But there's always specialty drinks, chocolatey bites and things like mini key lime pie and bite-sized banana pudding, too.

You should know, I've already bought my dress, which my mother pointed out looked so comfortable that surely I could eat a lot at the show.

So look forward to that.

In the meantime, if you're looking for a unique Valentine's Day gift or a date night you'll remember, plan to join me on Feb. 9 for the First Look for Charity. It's a delicious night for a great cause.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Three Things Thursday

1. Today I'm headed out to the Chicago Auto Show's First Look for Charity food preview. To help get people in the door at the largest one-day fundraiser, #FLFC18 brings together a selection of the many local food and drink vendors who will eventually cater the black-tie event on Feb. 9. This will be my fourth Auto Show with FLFC, I'm pretty psyched to head to the city again this year to eat way too much and rub elbows with the media.

Last year's auto show

2. Napoleon continues to evolve as a family dog. He barely ever barks anymore, and he especially loves the bedtime routine whereby the small ones cuddle and pet him while watching a show. Who would've ever thought he would be such a sweetie.

3. If you follow me on Instagram, you know my cheese board game has been quite strong. I got another shipment from Cabot recently and have been sharing my cheese bounty with all those who visit. My personal favorite is the horseradish cheddar, although the everything bagel cheese seems to go over well, too.

Monday, January 8, 2018

My Experience With Jury Duty

There is nothing that strikes fear into the hearts of law-abiding citizens quite like a legal summons. But jury duty is a whole other level of annoyance. I was initially selected as a Cook County alternate juror a few months ago. What that means is the day before you're scheduled to appear, you call a number and they tell you if you're needed.

However, I was scheduled to travel right around that time, so I asked for a reprieve and was granted it easily through an automated phone system. That meant the next time I was summoned in roughly 90 days, I would have to appear instead of call in.

Just appearing was a big pain in the ass. We live in the suburbs and I had to drive to the train station, pay to park, take the train and then walk to the courthouse in the cold. All of that is not reimbursed, and jury duty pays $17 a day. So I was already in the hole on this.

I expected to spend the day hanging out in a jury waiting room reading. Alas, after I checked in and had my ID signed off on, we watched a super corny VHS orientation video starring Lester Holt with a mustache and I was called up around 9:40 a.m. My panel and several others were shown to another floor and led into an empty courtroom to wait. About 30 minutes later, we were all led into another courtroom where the attorneys and their representatives were already seated. We were sworn in by a clerk and once the judge entered the court, she told us the nature of the case and that she thought the civil trial would last five days. It was a personal injury claim involving a scooter and a taxi on a very busy thoroughfare in Chicago.

The judge asked if anyone was older than 75, couldn't understand English or had any conflicts. A number of people were dismissed almost immediately for travel plans or medical reasons. We were also asked if jury duty would cause undue hardship and if we can be fair and impartial. The judge asked if we knew any of the parties or each other. This was my unwitting first step towards being dismissed: I asked one of the attorneys if he had ever been a divorce attorney, because I swear he looked familiar from my personal legal proceedings. It turns out I did not know him, but the I'm guessing no one really wants to be linked to divorces.

TFW you're dismissed from jury duty
After the judge questioned us for about an hour, each party to the lawsuit had the opportunity to question the jury about matters they thought were pertinent to the case. Questions included had we ever seen aggressive driving in the city, could we be unbiased to a cab driver, did we have any issues with people not born in this country, how did we feel about people who stopped to help at the scene of an accident, etc. 

I asked a lot of questions.

This is ultimately (I believe) why after allllll the questioning and screening, I was not selected as a juror. They probably don't want jurors who ask too many questions or look too deeply into stuff. After all the questions were asked, the judge and attorneys retired to chambers to actually select the jury. I was thanked for my time and sent back up to the jury holding room. By this time, it was 1:40 p.m. and we had not been given a lunch break. So they gave us our meager checks and told us to go home.

Evidently, if it were earlier in the day, we would have had to wait for the rest of the afternoon in the event that they needed more jurors.

So I took the train back home and thanked my lucky stars I would not be doing that whole routine for another week. I signed the check over to my employer so I could receive my normal wage, and was assured I will not be called up for jury duty for another 12 months.

Thank goodness for small favors.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Welcome to 2018!

I spent a large portion of 2017 focusing on my career, hence the abbreviated blog schedule. And, it worked. My life has evolved quite a bit in the past year, so now that I'm back in the mix, here are a few things you can look forward to for continuing to tune in here in spite of my lackluster time management. Here's what's new with me and my crew and what you can expect in the coming weeks:

Travel. My new role with my company includes visiting our offices and partners around the world to collaborate on business goals. So far, I've been to London, Tokyo and Washington, D.C. This is in addition to a cruise and visiting my family in Texas, so I'm racking up the miles and learning so. much. about the world of travel.
At a temple in Tokyo
Food. We went to Alinea for my birthday and continue to find all kinds of gems. Don't worry, I'll give you all the deets.
The famous edible balloon
Tips & hacks. After all this travel, by myself and with our family, I've figured out a few hacks to make my life a little easier.

Electric car stuff. That's right, I finally pulled the trigger and joined the revolution. I am a proud member of the electric car subculture. More on this lil fella and how he came to be parked in my garage later on.

Fun fitness. After last year's chaos, I decided against signing up for another Ironman this year. Back to back years was too much for me, and I wanted to continue to work on other parts of my life for a while. I'm still doing perennial favorite Circular Logic Marathon in April, but the rest of the year will be dedicated to trying out a few fitness fads to see what actually works and what is overrated.

I have a list a mile long of content I've been contemplating, and now I just need to get to it. What would you like to see from me in 2018?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

My Lasik Story

I recently ended a long-term relationship with my glasses. I started wearing glasses as a freshman in high school and by college, I needed them all the time. I got contacts, but they irritated my eyes and weren't ideal for athletic pursuits. But I also couldn't wear glasses while swimming and I never owned prescription sunglasses. 

I've thought about getting lasik for probably 10 years. My prescription has been stable for that time, and it's not significant (-1.75). I finally went to get a consult to see just what all it would involve. I went to LasikPlus, which is a chain in my area. The surgeon at my local joint has done more than 68,000 of these procedures. When I talked to a doctor I know who had this done years ago, he said to just find a reputable place that's done a lot of these. I looked on Yelp and Google and Facebook and saw mostly glowing reviews. The negative reviews had to do with the payment plans or financing, which didn't much concern me.

My consult was very thorough - I saw several technicians and doctors who measured my eyes, tested my vision and took my medical history. After an hour of consulting, I was presented with two options: a standard Lasik procedure guaranteed for one year for a little less than $1,500, or the same procedure guaranteed for life for $2,800.

Even pre-op I'm adorable
The technician told me something on the order of 5 percent of people need a supplemental procedure, and that with a prescription as slight as mine, my odds were very small. I took the one-year guarantee because chances are if I need it again, it's still going to be cheaper to come out of pocket for it. I have a pre-tax HSA fund through work, which I was able to use for all of this. I scheduled my procedure for after the Ironman, because working out is not advised for three days after, and you can't swim for a week.

I was also given three prescriptions to be filled and brought with me to the procedure. Beware, if you don't get a coupon, one of the eyedrops is like $165 out of pocket. With the coupon, it's $35. I ended up not needing one of the eyedrops, but it was like $5, so no big deal.

I couldn't wear contacts for a week pre-op, and wasn't allowed to wear any makeup or lotion the day of the procedure. Brent dropped me off bright and early and was told to come back to get me in three hours, but that I would text him with a 20-minute warning.

I signed in, got a bunch of directions, paid and had my eyes remeasured to ensure accuracy. I also had to wash my eyelids with these special wipes, and they gave me a dose of Aleve PM. I was hoping for something stronger, but oh well. I also donned a hairnet and they put stickers on my chest indicating the numbers of the eye corrections I would undergo. My appointment was for 8 a.m. The surgeon showed up at 8:45 a.m. and the first guy came out of the O.R. by 9 a.m.

Before my procedure, I was moved into an office and given numbing drops. A technician explained my post-op meds and procedures and gave me coke to sip on so I wouldn't pass out.

The actual procedure took eight minutes, maybe. I was given more numbing drops and who knows what else. The first machine that I stared into had a red laser for me to look at. I believe this was the machine that created a corneal flap ... which is the nice way to say it cut my eyeball. I didn't feel it. What I did feel was a ton of pressure as the doctor held my eye open and in place. Next, they switched me over to the laser. It took 11 seconds of laser work on my right eye, and 16 on my left eye. During this part, your vision goes from white to black and you smell something ridiculously gross. It's not hot, but it is certainly the smell of cells being destroyed. It wasn't actually that different from the smell when I got laser hair removal.

Cleverly cropped out those fugly goggles
Then, there are more numbing drops and the doctor "sets the corneal flap." You see, there's no stitches. Just a little bit of your eye covering your cornea that was just reshaped by a laser. Hence why you have to be really, really careful to not touch or bump or get your eye wet in the first few days.
When it was over, a nurse moved me back to the office I started in and gave me my first round of eyedrops. On the first day, you get like 40 drops. No joke. The first is an antibiotic. The second is a steroid to reduce the swelling. The third is just lubricating tears. I had one round post op and then was told to do another when I got home.

A nurse put a pair of provided goggles over my face, and then sunglasses over that. I was shocked that they just sent me on my way after that and didn't help me into a chair in the waiting room. I was actually kind of shaky and weak after, but it subsided.

The drive home was really uncomfortable though. In spite of having my eyes closed and wearing sunglasses, everything was entirely too bright.

She came to my post-op because
they have hot cocoa
The key to recovering from lasik is to keep your eyes closed for at least four hours post-op, preferably six hours. Except, I was back in bed by 10 a.m. after sleeping a full night, so that presented a challenge. Also, I had a terrible taste in the back of my mouth from the laser and the drops, and my eyes felt too big for my head. I found out later, when I could open my eyes again and Brent read me the post-op instructions, I could have hit those anti-inflammatory drops every 20 minutes to make that go away.

Live and learn.

I think I slept maybe 90 minutes out of that time. The rest of the time I listened to an audio book and messaged Brent via Alexa about things I needed or were thinking of. It was actually a pretty relaxing day. When you wake up from your post-op nap, you need drops every two hours to keep infection and swelling at bay. I didn't feel hungry at all that day and skipped lunch entirely.

It was a Friday, so by the time the kids got home from school at 4 I was awake and sort of seeing clearly. Everything had a halo around it, and I had to close all the blinds. Being outside was out of the question that first day, and I had to wear sunglasses to watch TV because it was entirely too bright.
Ravinia must go on, lasik or no
Additionally, no one told me that having a burst blood vessel was entirely normal. I took one look at myself in the mirror and called the doctor back in a panic. It's been two and a half weeks and it's still there, but I'm told that's normal.

Still very red
The next morning, I woke up with perfect vision. I drove myself to my post-op check up and found out I have 20/20 vision now. I even went to a concert the day after. I had to wear sunglasses well into the evening because the stage lights were too bright, but it was '90s night so I wasn't even close to the most ridiculously appareled person there.

For the first week, I had to sleep and shower with goggles on. I also couldn't wear makeup for four days, and then could only wear new makeup around my eyes. I couldn't get water in my eyes for the first week, either. In addition to the post-op nap, the doctor said the other crucial bit was to not touch your eyes or the area around it for the first four days. Which proved to be difficult, and make sleeping really annoying. Sleeping solely on your back is harder than it seems.

Now nearly three weeks later, my eye is still red but my vision is perfect. I use gel drops at night, but otherwise, have zero lasting effects. I have a one-month follow up that I assume will go swimmingly.

Mostly I wonder why I didn't do this earlier.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Race Recap: 2017 Ironman Wisconsin

Six-word summary: Another PR, but time for time off.

It has been a hell of a summer, my friends. I have been off the grid for long enough that I feel a layer of guilt about my lack of blogging. I'll admit, my training for my third Ironman Wisconsin (2016, 2014) was lackluster. Last year, we went to Madison weekend after weekend to bike the course. We even had a stellar peak training weekend where we swam 2.4 miles Friday, biked 100 Saturday and ran 16 Sunday.

This year, I was a bit more slapdash. I loosely followed a training plan, working out 6/7 most weeks, and working up to a 100-mile bike ride, 2.4-mile open water swim and 18-mile run, just not all in the same weekend. I regretted signing up for an Ironman two years in a row. For me, it's too much. Training became another box that I feel guilty leaving unchecked (hence, why I am writing this recap two weeks after the event at 2 a.m. in a fit of insomnia).

But, practice does make perfect. We have the perfect Airbnb and decided that this year, we were staying Thursday through Monday. The first year, Alyssa and I did this in our Hipster Hideaway, and last year, I felt unduly stressed trying to pack up everything to get there by Friday night.

This year was downright leisurely. I spent most of Thursday morning packing up the car, checking our lists and organizing the trip. We drove to Madison and complete athlete check in in record time (not my only PR that day). We had enough time that I got my bike out to have the mechanics check it out. Good thing I did - the bike shop that changed my chain the week before put it on backward. I paid for a tune up after that because who knows what the hell else they screwed up. That evening, we took advantage of happy hour pricing and finally checked out Hopcat. The crack fries are amazing and during happy hour, a damn good burger is $5.95. I love Madison.

Friday, we tried to sleep in. We spent some quality time packing our transition bags and walking through everything we may need.  We dropped off our bikes and joined Mark for a short practice swim during which I tried on my brand-new goggles. They're my standard pair, but I bought a new one the week before to prevent a repeat of my first Ironman.

Saturday was more of the same. Lots of watching of Lost interrupted by only by dropping off our transition bags and walking around the expo. This year, I put all my hydration on my bike the night before. I noticed last year that it's surprisingly hard to find water in transition the morning of, and it's one less thing to worry about.

My favorite part of staying at an Airbnb (besides everyone getting their own room and more privacy), is we have a kick-ass kitchen. Instead of waiting around to eat and getting home later than we like, we made a metric ton of pasta for our assembled friends and family. We got dinner out of the way and turned in for the night at maybe 8:30 p.m. Unlike my current state, I slept well over eight hours for the week leading up to the event.

We awoke at 4:15 a.m. to apply sunscreen and body markings. Brent's mom bought us a new type of sunscreen that you apply the night before and the morning of that worked far better than my standard stuff. Zealios (they don't pay me, I just like the stuff), was my pasty skin's dream.

After that, we put on extra clothing and headed down to the Ironman Village. I pumped up my tires and got out of there ASAP to avoid the nervous energy.

Because this is the first year they've done a wave start for IMWI, I wanted to be near the beach early. Last year, I was sliding into the water as the cannon went off and I wanted to position myself to have a strong swim. I was headed down the helix at 6:15 a.m. for my 6:45 wave. I was at the front of the pack and got into the water with time to spare. You can no longer do a practice swim and get in the water 5 minutes before your wave starts, which I think was enough time.

I don't think the wave start did much to improve my state of mind. It just seemed less exciting. In fact, as the first non-pro wave, when the clock got to 6:45, Mike Reilly just said "Go." No cannon. Nothing. So off I went.

Every swim starts with a little panic for me. I don't know why. I get a little worked up about what happens next, and even with the wave start, I got kicked in the head hard enough to make my ears ring. I level out by the time I get to the first turn buoy, but I already knew I wasn't having the epic swim I did last year. My fault - I didn't swim as much as I should and didn't have nearly the open water swim experience I needed.

But all that didn't matter. I was really in my element by the time I got to the halfway buoy. I'd found a pattern and location in the pack that worked, and I was gliding along through the day. Out of nowhere, my goggles snapped right off my face into three distinct pieces. One arm shot out of the water and I started waving for help while the other hand clutched the remains of my goggles. A jetski tried to come over to me, but I was so far into the pack that they couldn't get close. I had to sidestroke over to them and try to get my very cold fingers to work in piece them back together enough to finish the remaining 1/3 of the swim. That happened right around 52 minutes in, so I knew my swim would not be the 1:10 I hoped for.

When I got to the second turn buoy after finding my bearings again, I was thoroughly pissed and over it. I forgot there was another buoy and thought I was headed for the beach, leading to more off-course swimming and general orneriness on my part.

I was angry getting out of the water. Why do I keep trusting speedo when twice their shitty goggles have kicked my Ironman day off in the most displeasing way? I looked like a monster coming out of the water and felt like it, too.

The wetsuit stripped was lovely and I was running up the helix in no time. I saw Brent's mom and asked her to hold onto the goggles so I could complain about it later. I got my bag in no time and was out of my swimsuit like three steps into the change room. I had a tough time getting into my bike stuff and felt a little clunky out of the water, but soon enough I was running barefoot through transition. My bike space was towards the end so when I got there, I sat on the ground and got my bike shoes on and away I went.

I hadn't even left the Alliant Center when I saw my first incident of some decked-out dude in all the gear throwing his bike into the bushes. Guess he was having a worse day than me.

I headed out on the stick towards Verona and settled in for the bulk of my day. Side note: This is a bit of an Facebook legend that people aren't sure is real, but I totally saw a dude without a seat, riding upright and passing me on a hill. His saddle was tucked into his bike jersey. If you believe the hype reported in certain circles online, he broke is seat post in T1 and rode the entire bike like that. One woman reports taking his bike from him in T2, and another said he missed a Kona roll down slot my 26 seconds. It's unclear if it's the same dude or if there are two mystery men with the same laughable problem, although there doesn't seem to be a debate that the dude/s finished the entire 112-mile bike seatless. I am not worthy.

This year, I didn't bother with a bike or a run special needs bag knowing we didn't not get them back last year. Instead, I had a PBJ sandwich and oreos in my jersey pocket and snacked anytime I stopped to pee. Which happened to by like three times. At least I knew I was hydrated.

Learning from my follies of the past, I took a bottle of some sort of hydration at every aid station and made it my goal to have space on my bike to swap out at the next station.

Weird fact: This year's Gatorade Endurance or Ironman formula or whatever they were offering stained my bottles the most vibrant shade of orange. I've never seen that happen, and it didn't taste that strong. I wonder what it did to my insides.

In addition to the gatorade and my snacks, I tried to grab a cliff mini bar or other snack as often as I could. I never ate a gel, but I did have probably four of those mini bars, so I was set.

It's always surreal on the bike because it's easy to lose sight of the fact that you're racing because it's such a long day. You don't want to go all out because you need to save your legs, but you can't zone out or it will take forever. I did bike up Barlow this year for the first time and wish I hadn't. My legs were toast for some time and it wasn't worth it.

As always, when I made it to the stick back, I knew I was going to finish my day. I made it up the helix and jogged into transition, which was mercifully shorter than my first transition. I was back out on the road in no time and caught Jess long enough to tell her why my swim was crap, then off I went around the square. I had no plan or strategy other than to try and run more this year.

I would run a bike, walk up a hill, run a bit, take some pretzels, jog a bit. Around mile six, I caught up to a friend and we chatted while she power walked through campus. When I went to take a job down a hill, she decided she'd rather keep up with me than run it alone. So that's how Andrea and I ended up spending many an hour traipsing through Madison and its outer trails.

I finally saw Brent as I settled into my second loop, well after taking a two-pack of Advil for a creaky knee. The gel caps are where it's at, friends. Insta-relief. I thought I recalled the aid stations having more food, but alas, I was many pretzels short of a meal worth eating.

As the afternoon turned to evening, the chicken broth came out and I had visions of warmer clothing. This year was unseasonably cool. I believe we reached a high of 67 that day (the following weekend was into the 80s, and today, it hit 95 on my dashboard during my evening commute).

I start dreaming of finishing well before the second loop starts, but this year, I was fixated on the idea of finally hearing Mike Reilly clearly say, "Kelly Stone, You Are an Ironman." It's been a long time coming and after such a not banner year, I wanted it more than I wanted this all to be over.

When we got to the square, Andrea motioned for me to go on to have my moment. It was everything I remember and everything I love about the long, miserable day and even longer training toil.

I crossed the finish line and was met by Brent's mom and Alyssa. They were both volunteering at the finish line collecting chips and were changing shifts as I finished right before 9 p.m. I felt pretty good finishing, other than very cold. Terri gave me her jacket and called Jess so I could retrieve my clothes. I collected my things and skipped the finisher's photos in favor of collecting some food and heading across the street to get my stuff from my friends who so lovingly collected it from race officials. Gear in hand, Alyssa and Jess and I craftily made it back to the finish line to get prime seats for Brent's finish.

We were in such a plum spot that I watched Mike Reilly eat a sandwich and took medal selfies with him in the background. When Brent made it across the finish line, we all headed to a nearby hotel to chill for a while. We opted not to go out to eat afterwards this year, and instead got more food at the finish line and went back to our Airbnb for showers and bedtime. I'd love to say I slept in until noon, but I was up fairly early. We made breakfast, packed up and drove home with our mountain of laundry, medals and pride still intact.

The fact that I managed to continue to take time off my PR in spite of training that left much to be desired makes me wonder if I'm holding back on race day or what. Maybe one day I'll have a summer where I can give it my all and really leave it out there, but this was not that year. I am abstaining from Ironmans for 2018 and will see if I feel the itch in 2019. For now, I have so much other stuff that vies for my attention. I'd like to return to the race when I've earned it and know I can make improvements on my performance.

The upswing is that the backpack and medal are better this year than all the others I've received, and I know I will enjoy running and biking more when it's not a mandate in my life.

Cost: $700ish (but who's counting now)
Time: 14:08:01 (a PR of three minutes)
Pros: Well-run race with tons of volunteers and premium everything: shirts, medals, swag, aid stations
Cons: $$$, sacrificing your summer, neverneding guilt/anxiety over not training enough, the roads are rough in spots and Barlow is a nightmare

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Three Things Thursday

1. It's finally deck season! It's been well into the 80s this week and our air conditioning is getting a workout. We upgraded to a quiet model that's more efficient, which also means we can enjoy our deck while it's still cooling the inside. It's a great time to be alive.

2. Another awesome sign of spring and wonderful benefit of our new home is getting out to bike some miles. We found a PERFECT paved trail near us that I'm sure will get lots of use this training season. It's 13 miles long without traffic. We could easily park and do endless 26-mile loop as we get ready for Ironman Wisconsin. It's only an eight-mile ride there, too.

3. A final sign of spring: 3Floyds moved back the date of Dark Lord Day from ever-rainy April to May. It was all sun shiny skies and smiles this year, which was a first. We ended up staying 12 hours, resulting in a few sun burns, but festivals like this on days like that don't come around that often.