Kelly the Culinarian: 2018

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Three Things Thursday

1. I've picked up some new accolades! Two weeks ago, I traveled to DC for the day to accept awards at PR News' Nonprofit Awards. I got an award for Best Marketing Campaign for a fundraiser I worked on, and I astonishingly was awarded Nonprofit Communicator of the Year. I'm feeling pretty proud of myself, as well as honored for the opportunities that lead me to this.

2. We finally saw the Chicago River for St. Patricks's Day! This picture is not altered at all; it really is that green. We spent the weekend with friends downtown, going out to eat and enjoying a concert. It was pretty pleasant, weather wise, and we wandered around Millenium Park and saw The Bean as well.

3. We don't really celebrate Easter, as we're not religious, and typically commemorate our own flavor of celebration that we call prEaster (clever, right?). We did that the weekend before Easter, and then had the chance to go to an underwater Easter egg hunt later in the week. It was the cutest thing ever! It was $8 a kid and included all the eggs they could grab, an hour of swimming and a visit from the Easter bunny. The place even segmented out age groups, so it wasn't overwhelming for any of the parties and there were a ton of lifeguards.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

2018 First Look for Charity Chicago Auto Show Preview

Another year of my favorite event! The First Look for Charity preview of the Chicago Auto Show is an amazing event. Delicious food, plentiful drinks and unprecedented access to what's next in cars. Plus, the event raises millions of dollars annually for 18 local charities. The event is the only fundraiser for many of the organizations, and this year the combined total donation was $2.8 million.

This year merely getting there was an adventure. We had a snowstorm so epic Thursday night headed into Friday that schools were closed and we were told to avoid travel unless necessary. I would say the auto show is critical but that's just me. With no one else on the road, it only took a half an hour to get there.
The snow didn't seem to keep anybody at home, but it is fun that the event is small enough that we ran into friends pretty easily.

My favorite evolution is that this year, there were adoptable puppies on site. If I had met them after the event and several beverages, I'd probably be up a few dogs over when we started.

I'm like Snow White

The Goose Island stand was disappointing and the bartenders were predictably rude, but there were all sorts of delicious craft cocktails. Don Julio even had margaritas on tap. 

GI's beer and cheese pairing
My favorite bite of the night, by far, were these shrimp tacos from Mercadito. Don't judge on how many I ate.

But no evening at the Chicago Auto Show is complete without a trip to Andy's Custard. They run a tight ship - the line was long but moved fast enough that I definitely hit it up twice. No shame, no regrets.

Also, this booze-flavored cotton candy was super impressive.

A few more bites we enjoyed: stromboli, ceviche, empanadas, and trays of tacos, because tacos are amazing.

It was another wonderful year at my favorite charity gala. It's incredible to me that for so many of the charities, this event is the sole annual fundraiser. While fun and tasty, this single evening out fuels so much good right here in our backyard. 10/10, will do again!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Three Things Thursday

1. I am officially LOVING driving an electric car. Here's my little guy charging this morning. It's really fun to know I've driven more than 1,600 miles and spent $1.11 on gas. The frugal part of my soul is very happy.

2. Marathon training is such a humbling experience. The pace I ran my PR marathon at is currently the pace I do my speedwork at. I'm slower, but I've had other competing priorities, and I did finish three Ironmans since then.

3. When it comes to froyo, Costco's price per ounce is hard to beat. This whole cup is like $1.35. But the lack of toppings makes me really sad. I got myself a cup after my long run last weekend (12 miles) and I ended up sharing it with the kids. I need reese pieces and peanut butter and waffle chips to bring the experience home. Now I'll know for this weekend's run.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Fitness Finds: Spenga

I made the tough decision to not pursue another Ironman this year because of the crushing pressure I felt last year. I was pushing hard in many aspects of my life and felt like something was always getting shorted, my training being the easiest thing to omit.

So instead, I'm going to spend 2018 having fun with my fitness. I'm still going to train for a spring marathon, but I'd like to get back to enjoying being active because it makes me feel good, not because I need to check off a training session on a calendar. I miss going for aimless bike rides and doing one-month strength challenges. So here I am.

To start with, I signed up for the first thing that found me via social media advertising. Around Christmas, I bought a 12 days for $12 pass to Spenga. If you're like me and had never heard of this boutique-concept fitness class before, let me enlighten you - it's 20 minutes of spin, 20 minutes of strength and 20 minutes of yoga. I think I ended up going to 8-9 classes during the 12 days, and it was a nice break from my typical workout.

Here's an official video:

For $12, I'll try most things. I signed up online a reserved a seat at an introductory class. When I arrived, I was shown where the bathroom and water fountain was, as well as the electronic lockers. There aren't showers or towel service at most of these places. The gym itself at this particular location was one large room, divided into a small cycle studio with the instructor on the stage, and strength "pods." There was another room for yoga adjacent to the spin studio.

I got a very brief introduction on how to set up my bike, and then got started. Each workout starts with 20 minutes of high-intensity cycling based upon your "sweet spot." From what I could gather,  it was based upon about 80 percent of your max effort. If you sign on for the whole shebang, they calculate your sweet spot by having you cycle at 80 revolutions per minute for four minutes, then do the math for you. In this instance, I decided winded but not dying was my sweet spot.

After cycling, participants move quickly to strength pods. Each person gets a pod, which contains small dumbells and kettlebells, a TRX set up, a bosu ball, a yoga mat and a step. Each day had different types of workouts, always in intervals. Some days were Tabata (20 seconds on, 10 seconds recovery, repeated four times), some days were 90 seconds of work with 60 seconds or rest or some other permutation. There were leg and arm days, and most workouts included some level of core.

There wasn't a huge emphasis on form, probably because most of the weights were light. It was up to each participant to select the correct weights and modify based upon skill level. I was sore several times during my two-week trial, so I think the workouts did something.

The yoga varied quite a bit. Some days, it was tougher for me than the strength. Other days, it was very soothing.  Any way you slice it, I would say at least 75 percent of my time spent working out was rewardingly miserable.

I liked the structure of the workouts and the accountability of having to go to a class. But, there is no way I would ever pay for the classes at retail. Even their cheapest plan is $69 per month, and that's for four classes per month. There's no place to get ready for work, so I'd have to either do it after work or leave enough time to go home and get ready after class. I did like that childcare was available on-site, and for $5 per kid for the hour, it's not the best deal, but it would make working out easy.

I'm very conflicted about boutique fitness, because for most people, one class a week isn't enough. And the boutique fitness means you can't exactly drop in and work on your form or fit in a supplemental workout, so most people have other gyms or programs that augment the class. This gets to be a pricey proposition. I'm also not sure if I'd get enough out of the classes if I was a beginner. That said, if I had full-time kids, this would be awesome me-time.

Pros: Nice facility, small classes, a balanced/diverse workout, a schedule to follow
Cons: Expensive, no locker rooms. not a huge emphasis on form, the intensity is based on how much you push yourself, definitely a scenario where the instructor matters, I did feel a sales push even after I said I wanted give my 12 days a try

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Three Things Thursday

1. We've had another cold snap and lots of snow, so many an hour of indoor dwelling. I know understand why parents so emphatically support legos. We had several hours of blissful independent play without fighting as they built a bunch of complicated lego houses and forts. No regrets.

2. I bought this shark dog bed for Napoleon just for laughs. I thought he'd like it since he enjoys sleeping under the bed and on piles of pillows. Sadly, he doesn't go in there often, but it makes me smile anytime he does.

3. Has anyone ever dealt with gouged leather boots? These are my beloved Frye boots that I wear all winter long. I emailed the company and they suggested I find a local cobbler to fix it. Somehow, I expected more for the price these boots go for. I guess at the end of the season I'll find a shoe repair place to give these the once over, but I'm all ears for recommendations on what to do next.

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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?