M is for…

Remember that IceBreaker?

Everyone goes around the room and introduces themselves with their first name and an adjective with the same initial as their first name?

Around high school I started realizing Melanie had a better adjective to link up to than Marvelous, Magnificent or Magical. (Which was helpful, because although I consider myself all that and more, usually the Matt’s, Mike’s, Melissa’s and myself would run out of adjectives to compete for.)

..Messy.

Messy Melanie.

Mel the Mess.

I’ll let you guess why.

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Teenage Superstars

While the Staycation was over by Saturday, some big events were still on their way.

Saturday, for one, started by helping my sister Rachel get ready for PROM!!

It’s hard to believe my baby sister went the monumental dance featured in every coming of age movie and teenage-focused show. I’d helped her find her dress, schedule appointments and eventually did her makeup for the big day.

She looked so grown up and beautiful.

I was honored when Rachel and her best friend insisted I take a picture of them at the pre-dance picture taking. I love my little girls. We may be 5 years apart, but we’re so close.

I took pictures at the dance like an overeager parent…and way more eager than my own parents..excited for Rachel because Prom is really an exciting time.

Look how beautiful the back of her dress is!

While I’ll never forget prom, I had major buyer’s remorse about my own prom dress, since it was only the 3rd one I tried on. Looking back now though, I love how sexy and different my dress was. It had a flared see-through opening on both sides of my legs, intricate flower beading and a sheer red color. I was able to wear it back-to-back weekends to 2 different prom events – one for my good guy friend, the other for my own high school- and have never put it on since.

Anyone notice the curly hair guy in the back right? There’s Corbin Bleu. He was invited by a girl in my group who had become friends with him while studying to become an actress. And because I get giddy just thinking about it, I have to share one of my all time favorite pictures: learning the High School Musical dance with Corbin at prom (Our group was the last to leave because we couldn’t stop dancing)!

 

Did you go to Prom? Did you think it was special or overrated? What did you think of your dress?

Speaking of famous teenage singers..

After an exciting afternoon, I psyched myself up to sit through a rainstorm to go to a very special concert.

Through my pretty awesome job, I’d scored 2 VIP orchestra pit tickets to the Haley Reinhart American Idol hometown concert and brought my friend Kristi from Haley’s hometown of Wheeling, IL who is basically Haley’s biggest fan.

Despite the downpour, a couple thousand locals showed up at Arlington Park bearing posters and raincoats to watch the finalist. Haley’s visit will be shown tonight (Wednesday) on American Idol and I’m super excited to see what the turnout looked like on TV.

After all, we shuffled through crowds of 14 year old screaming fans and the rudest parents alive to nab these 3rd row pit seats. I hope I’m on tv 🙂 Even though I’m super awkward and my sign failed.

Watching this concert was more like being in a studio audience. It wasn’t straight and organized like most concerts and Haley did a good job at going with the flow. Every now and then the producer would come on the mic and get the audience involved in promos they were shooting. It was pretty exciting! She even brought her parents on stage. I can totally picture Ryan Seacrest’s voiceover hamming this up with some heartwarming music. “Then Haley brought her family on stage for a very special homecoming performance.”

Do you watch American Idol? Who do you want to win?

Lastly, some of my best gals and I gathered for a home-cooked dinner downtown Monday.

We shared a delicious wine spritzer combination ala Kathy. Ashley the chef prepared a greens salad, then followed up with a orange citrus fish + pesto whole wheat combo. Delish!

Then we moved to the couch for quality gossip and dessert. Cake balls and chocolate chip cookies – props go to my mom and a mix respectively 🙂

I have to say, I love that  my group of friends can get together and cook for each other instead of going out to eat or getting rounds of drinks sometimes. Its so nice to feel domestic and homey together. I’ve been roommates with Kathy, Ashley and Megan at different points, and nights like those make me feel like I’m back in the sorority house.

What’s your favorite way to spend time with your friends?

Best Staycation Ever

What exactly does one do on Staycation in Chicago?

Let me tell you!

– Visit the Bean at Millennium Park  late at night, when it’s even more reflective than during the day. Beware of pesky security guards.

– Sit in rush hour reverse commute traffic. Twice.

– Walk Michigan Avenue’s Magnificent Mile.

– Grab deep dish pizza from Giordano’s. (Though Lou Malnati’s has my heart too).

– Drink in Wrigleyville while watching the Cubs play right next door and enjoy the quality people-watching that comes from drunk Cubs fans. Cubs = party = love.

– Share late night McDonald’s cookies.

– Take a day off work.

– Make a trip down Lakeshore Drive to The Art Institute of Chicago. See a few famous paintings.

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– Visit the nightlife and pub scene in the Gold Coast.

– Get taken to a realllllly nice dinner (how I managed to add this to the list was very lucky).

– Shmooze the waiter until you’re BFFs; get a free ginormous chocolate mousse cake.

– Explore the beauty ::cough:: that is the North Suburbs

– Enjoy more classic suburban fare: purveying the wide draft and vegetarian selection at The Yardhouse, nabbing free drinks (strawberry mojito!) at RA Sushi, and sitting down to a delicious meal at home

– Stay up all night hanging downtown and making new friends in order to drive to Midway at 5 am

If this sounds like a great Staycation Datecation to you, then I would completely agree!

I love Chicago!

The rest of the weekend had some more adventures which will definitely come in the next post! Let me say, even though I can’t wait to jump back on the clean eating and working out schedule, I know it will be a transition. That was more restaurant eatin’ than I’ve done in a loooong time.

Restaurant Rave

But before I fade away from this special week, I want to share a little more about Hugo’s Frog Bar and Fish House – the seafood sister of famous Chicago steakhouse, Gibson’s – and the ritzy restaurant we frequented Wednesday night.

Roaming the corner of Rush and State, my friend and I found many nice restaurants and bar. But fish cravings were calling our name to Hugo’s and even better, I happened to know the host at the door!

While the price range is inappropriate for anything other than a special occasion – or perhaps a senior job income – the restaurant is well worth it! With a diverse wine list of whites and reds and specialty house bottles, there’s something for everyone to start with.

Like all my favorite restaurants, this one opens with amazing breads. Specifically a loaf of cinnamon-raisin! I’ve never seen raisin bread served as an opening dish but woww was it amazing!

My most important recommendation is to request Adam as your server. He is awesome! Interesting, entertaining and fun, we bantered with him all evening and heard about his new exercise regime along with his family’s background in the Marine Corps. He set such a fun mood!

My friend and I split the Walleye and Halibut fish entrees – both were so amazing. I specifically liked the Walleye even though I’d never had it before. It was fresh and crusty and thick. Though each entree come with choice of soup or salad (Adam upgraded soups for us too), side orders are ala cart and family style. In Chicago, we do it big!

And even though bread and fish and wine should have been enough, Adam bought us a dessert and the fluffiest, chocolate-iest, largest mousse cake I’ve ever seen. I would love to see the other desserts they have!

Seriously, we got our nom on at Hugos! If you’re ever feeling particularly celebratory, I absolutely recommend this place – of course red meat eaters will love its sibling, Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse, as well.

Have you ever been to an extremely nice restaurant? What is your favorite food to order out? Do you like deep dish pizza? What is your favorite museum?

Awkward Staycationing

Hiya!

First, just a shout-out that I re-updated my About Me page! Check it outt!

This week is a little nutty for me as I’m taking a “staycation” downtown while a friend is in Chicago for interviews. Packing for a week away from home while not technically going away is weirdddd!

But my car is loaded up and my fridge at work is stocked up and on Monday night, I said “Byee” to my family until I’ll return Friday.

The experience was actually my first time menu planning with such detail. For work lunches, I roasted a BIG bunch of zucchini, squash, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, green beans and  pea pods and split them into different Tupperware containers, pairing them with tofu or on top of a salad with hard boiled egg and black beans. I also bagged up sliced apples, nuts and raisins for each meal.

Preparing the week in advance was pretty fun and maybe something I implement from now on as it saves me time each day to not have to worry about packing a lunch – though it doesn’t take leftovers into consideration.

Awkward Stories of the Week

Summer is almosttttttt upon us and that means the return of beach weather and tanning!! In preparation, I redeemed a brazilian wax Groupon at a nice salon in Glencoe. The place is called Angeliza Spa and I havee to recommend it to any Chicagoans because it was the quickest, most painless wax in my life! And speed and comfort make all the difference when someone’s ripping hair off your unmentionables.

The owner also made moves to set me up with her son, who is around my age and Jewish. I thought it was a wonderful idea. Then I started wondering how I felt that this boy’s mom had seen me with my pants off…..I guess she approved of what she saw.

Ha! And that, my friends, is how I took this blog to a whole new level of awkwardness.

The Art of Racing in the Rain

This morning during my commute, I officially finished the audio version of The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. It’s been well received by almost everyone already, but I also had to chime in my support.

The book breaks your heart, makes you laugh out loud and inserts smooth commentary on the human race through an engaging tone and outsider perspective. I became totally immersed in the characters’ lives and thought it was such a smart touch to introduce the story from the dog’s point of view. I do judge a book on a bad ending and this one, fortunately, did not let me down. All loose ends were tied up and I ended the book both in fits of tears and a smile on my face.

Good to note: They’re making a movie based on the book, due out in 2012! I really wish they could choose the narrator from my audio book to voice for Enzo, the dog, in the movie because his voice was perfect!

But that’s the problem. As much as I love listening to a book-on-tape,  it is just not OK to be bawling your eyes out in the middle of morning traffic!  Sunglasses stayed on, makeup was re-applied at work and fingers were crossed that drivers didn’t think I was spasming on my drive. That was one emotional drive.

Have you ever taken a Staycation?

Do you meal plan?

Are you as awkward as I am?

See you all later this week! 🙂

Rain Stories and One Sugar-Loving Family

Goodbye Weekend!

How was everyone’s Friday, Saturday, and Sunday Mother Funday?

I’ve had quite the few days and this next week will be plowing ahead like crazy too.

Thursday

On Thursday, I headed over to a neighboring high school for one of my sister’s last track meet. Her coach had made a deal with Rachel that if she beat her 400 meter dash PR, she’d take her to dinner. Rachel had been anticipating the big race ever since and though her team is pretty high ranked, the day’s conditions were dreary and windy.

I was really amped to be at a high school competition – having never been to a track meet EVER before – and pretty inspired by the speedy little high schoolers! I totally got adrenaline rushes from watching runners kick at the last second and start passing people at the last second!

Unfortunately it was the day that dragged and dragged. 30 minutes into the meet, wind picked up. 1.5 hours into the meet, a storm delay was called. An hour later, the 800 meter run was just finishing up and the first leg of the 400 meter was starting. It started drizzling. The second heat of the 400 took their positions to race, and the rain came down consistently. As the third heat, and Rachel’s race, was beginning to get on the track, the rain turned to a downpour. The weather was doing everything in its power to prevent my sister from PRing! Names started being called by the announcer and I waited in anticipation to cheer for my sister. But right before they could call her, the whirl of the storm siren notified everyone of another delay. The look on her face was priceless. She was PISSED.

But there was a happy ending. 30 minutes later, her heat boarded the track and she took off in the fastest sprint ever. She dominated her heat and beat her PR by a second. YAY! I was a proud sister, screaming like a maniac “RUN! RUN! YOU GOT THIS!”

There’s the awful cellphone pic of Rachel, white shirt, a good second ahead of her racing companions.

Friday

With big plans for a weekend trip to St. Louis, I loaded and packed my bag for a solo 5 hour drive. Keeping me company on the way was a book on CD of The Art Of Racing In The Rain, a really awesome novel by Garth Stein, written from the perspective of a dog.

I’ve never listened to a book on tape before and thought I would hate it because it’s not as thumping as a typical car-jam session is…But I loooved it! For the long drive, I got totally immersed in the story and found myself laughing out loud and talking to the narrator. I think a good story and a good narrator probably make all the difference. Do you like book on tapes?

Saturday

After a fun night out with my best friend, who was in St. Louie on business, we rose on Saturday with free awesome tickets to the Cardinals-Brewers game. As Cubs fans, these are adversarial teams and we really didn’t want either team to win!

Cardinals Stadium was beautiful however. It was so clean, with great food options, and even better views of the St. Louis arch.


Elle had made shirts for us in Cardinal red but with slogans against the Cardinals that proclaimed “Go Cubs” on the bottom! It’s a good thing we were two, young, friendly girls because I’m pretty sure we would have gotten beaten up for them any other way.

After the game, we bounded back to the car to drive home. While I love that St. Louis is known for it’s quaint beauty, friendly people and the rapper Nelly, it’s just no Chicago.

Sunday

Extended family brunch and errands took up most of my day but the immediate family gathered around dinner time to celebrate my Momma. The wonderful woman who taught me everything I know about baking, cooking, staying healthy, eating greens, and traveling. I just have to shout out the Madre – especially since everyone else is!

MOMMMA!!! The 2 of us in 2009 while I was studying abroad and superrr tan.

Reservations were at Seasons 52, a restaurant I’ve heard so much about because the menu is seasonally inspired, changed 4 times a year per each season, and uses locally grown ingredients in a Special’s menu changed every week, 52 times a year.

My favorite thing about Seasons is the emphasis on flavor and spices rather than just ginormous portions. Everything in the menu is under 475 calories too.

We started with a flat bread pizza made of feta, poblano peppers, pineapple and a chipotle sauce. It was spicy and tasty.

For entrees, various fish, salads, vegetables and tofu combinations were ordered. I choose a salad with salmon, jicama, tomatoes, nuts,shredded parmesean, edamame and the coolest presentation. The salmon was weirdly on some sort of vegetable skewer. I couldn’t quite explain how they got it in there! My favorite thing about Seasons is that every bite you take, you can really savor each flavor. While I normally tend to scarf down my food, I really took the time to taste each bite. Do you usually savor each taste of food?

Last up, the waitress brought out a tray of minidessert shotglasses. With 9 different choices, we could pick from Key Lime Pie, Carrot Cake, Mocchiato, Cookies and Cream, Peanut Butter Mousse, Rocky Road, Lemon, and Pecan Pie flavors. My mom took one look at the tray and told the waitress, “We’ll take them all.”

Sooo..we had the opportunity to each try a little of each dessert.


And by try a little, I mean stuff ourselves. These cups were bigger than they looked and it was so fun to compare our favorites. The after picture looked more like this.

I mean…who does that?? Who finishes 9 desserts? Who? I’ll tell you. One sugar loving family!

My mom is a brilliant lady. It was the best idea ever but I mean hey! It’s Mother’s Day! Do what your Momma says because Mother usually knows best!

Mmm-ing on Desserts and the Famous

Remember when I promised I’d challenge myself at the gym in my last post?

I guess plans don’t always go as you’d hoped.

That day, last Wednesday, I initiated an interval treadmill run but 7 minutes into my exercise, got hit with the worst asthma attack. I’d completely forgotten my inhaler and had to cool down, laying down, trying to catch my breath for about 20 minutes. Scarryy. I’ve definitely learned my lesson about preparing for a workout and I’ve tried to come more prepared ever since.

The good news for me…but maybe not the best news for my health…was that after calming myself down, I headed back to work at 7:30. For my job, I frequently make and edit videos of different cool events and people at the school I work for.

Well..I just happened to need extra footage of our highly ranked culinary students. And when I waltzed into their class, guess what the theme of the lesson was?

DESSERTS.

Sugar, we meet again.

All the students were so considerate and I had the chance to sample all of their gourmet “signature desserts.”

Thank you, Blackberry camera

In the spread was: orange infused double chocolate brownies, caramelized mango tart, an Asian-inspired steamed cake, triple sec chocolate souffle, chocolate/raspberry/ coffee balls with white chocolate drizzle, baked peach crisp, carrot cake, wanton dessert sandwiches, and a few more.

It was a pretty wonderful adventure and I was loving life…either from the awesome opportunity to taste culinary masterpieces or the pulsing sugar through my veins.

Thursday night, work threw my foodie frenzy for a loop again when Andrew Zimmerman spoke on campus. The star of Travel Channel’s Bizzare Foods actually planned to use my office building as his green room. Needless to say, I stayed the extra hour after work to get a chance to meet him!

Must. Remember. To. Shower. And. Bring. Make Up. Before. Important. Events.

He was really friendly and funny which I definitely admire because I imagine it’s hard to be personable when everyone is throwing cameras and signs your way to autograph.

This is actaully the 4th famous person I’ve hung out with! I have quite a love of meeting famous people in a genuine setting and may recap this sometime in the blog if you would be interested. My other 3 encounters have been with: Corbin Bleu from High School Musical, Neil Flynn the Janitor on Scrubs, and Kid Cudi the musician.

Fitness

My other quick news from the week is that in some ways, I have stuck to my goal of challenging myself. For example, Saturday I set a new PR!! No, not 5k time or longest mileage. At all.

I spent 19 hours in heels! My feet and calves definitely think this was worthy of mentioning. Somehow a day out, turned into a night out, turned into a early morning out.

Yesterday, I also finally climbed ontop of the daunting Stairmill which I have been staring down since joining this gym.

10 minutes of intervals on levels 4-8, 100 calories and 35 flights later, I have to say I dig this machine! I didn’t feel too winded byit – probably because I was still getting my bearings – but I was definitely sweating.

Here’s hoping for as much excitement these next few days. I have a feeling some adventures are in store.

Have you ever met a famous person? Have you tried any new exercise equiptment?