It feels good to be back. I've spent the past few days visiting you guys and it's so nice to hear how all of us are moving on in the New Year. I love that feel of organizing, cleaning everything up and having time to relax. It may be reading, relaxing in the morning with a cup of coffee in a cozy spot or doing something creative like knitting, crocheting or sewing but I love reading these posts. I'm happy to have free time to sit back and chill now that I've got the tree down to the curb (sniff, sniff), and all the decorations packed away and downstairs. Now I have to shop the house to do a little spiffing up here and there but right now I'm just a little lazy.
I wish my year had started out a bit slower but similar to last January, we had a shower to pull off, this time for Jennifer. She is married to our nephew Flip, who is the son of Phil and Jean. You remember Jean passed away in August but she knew, thankfully, that she had a grandchild on the way. For that I'm grateful. My brother in law, Phil, is doing well, he needs a little company and we plan to do a few lunches here and there. He had been retired but decided to go back to part time teaching (he's a university professor). He's so excited to have this grandson on the way.
We had the shower at Emily's home, it was a smaller group. Emily made these beautiful sandwiches and I have to get the recipes as they are perfect for a large or smaller groups. She buys a variety of round artisan breads, each different, then she piles on various meats, cheeses and toppings. Pesto adds a nice bite and keeps the sandwiches sort of similar. She cuts each round into wedges like a pizza. So, so good. Another niece, Carolyn, made potato soup. We had a nice cold weather lunch.
I made a rustic sort of salad with a few different types of lettuce and herbs, chickpeas and red onion. A lemon based vinaigrette was perfect.
For my two appetizers I did a little shish kabob with cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil leaves. I marinated everything in olive oil and Italian herbs overnight. Great finger food. The favorite I made was fried rectangles of puff pastry topped with a brush of olive oil and prosciutto. They were so simple and quick to make. I know I'll do it again and again. Try to make it just before your party, the pastry is soft and fluffy then.
The theme of the shower was 'Hey Baby Its Cold Outside", and Emily really worked at the decorations which included a lot of snowflakes, a big banner in the window and lots blue. The little guy is due in early February. You can see that she framed the invitation. Jen was very happy and touched.
I mentioned our kids went in together on theatre tickets for The Husband and I as a Christmas gift. We were so surprised and touched. They added a gift card to cover a hotel and/or dinner out. We could have come home, we are only about 25 minutes from downtown Chicago, but it's always fun to stay. And we do that in February for my birthday so this was a way to get that out of the way! lol!
I love to do my research so we aren't surprised. I really dislike walking into an unknown (to us) restaurant and spending good money on mediocre food. I carefully research every place we go, especially on vacations. I'm freakish like that. So I chose a new hotel and it was just okay. From the 23rd floor we had a gorgeous view of the city. You can see the room was very clean and modern...
...the bath went off into another direction. Not bad but a little odd. I love European style hotels downtown, the Knickerbocker and The Drake are my favorites but I felt we needed to broaden our horizons. There was a lot to be desired here. :( Funny, we ended up at the Knickerbocker later in the evening for drinks and to listen to the jazz band.
I was really working on a timeline. Check in to the hotel at 4:00, cocktails in the bar at 4:30, dinner at 5:30 with reservations made several days before, and the play at 7:30 p.m.
Dinner was at the Capital Grille. The decor was beyond opulent and the food, oh my gosh. The Husband was very smart in ordering shrimp on a delicious risotto. But I ordered a steak the size of Texas and could barely eat 1/4 of it. Given our plans we had no way to get it wrapped to bring with us so it was a sad waste of money. Lesson learned. :(
This is what happens when your husband wants to take pictures of you and you totally feel that your 'frizzy from the rain' hair is not up to blog standards (and you know you will want to post it, I was wearing my finest!). And by the way, all the pictures that night looked like I was wearing my dinner napkin tucked in my top but it was a scarf. Truly.
The Oriental Theatre goes way back to 1926. It is breathtaking to see. This is a view of the lobby. Wish I could have taken pictures inside with the main floor and two balconies. I simply can't find the words to describe it. I've been here many times and I'm always in awe.
I've seen a good share of plays and musicals. My favorites are 42nd Street and The Lion King. I actually met Scar from the latter. Well, not Scar, but the actor who played him (and I've forgotten his name, this was about 12 years ago). I was walking down a street that ran behind the theatre on my lunch hour when I worked in the city. I didn't realize this was The Oriental from behind. 'Scar' was on a cigarette break near the back door and although I never approach celebrities or actors, he smiled at me and I walked over. He was very nice but he did have a sort of edge and I think that made him perfect for this role. It was a thrill to chat with him.
The musical was beautiful and uplifting. I can't say enough about it. I was 11 years old when Carole King's album, Tapestry, came out. We all have our own memories about it and mine are sitting in my best friend's bedroom with the album playing on her record player. We sang into hairbrushes (our pretend microphones) and imagined that we had long hippy hair, faded blue jeans and boho tops. The songs were a bit too sophisticated for me but the music was timeless and stayed with me for years to come.
I never knew that she was such a talented songwriter and that her music went back way before my time, yet such classics that I knew every word. I was entranced. The finale when the whole cast was introduced and then broke into I Feel The Earth Move was fantastic. Everyone stood up and sang and danced. I looked over my shoulder at the two balconies and I had not only chills up my spine but a lump in my throat. Very hard to explain but I guess it's what you feel when something of this magnitude touches your heart.
Afterwards we walked to an iconic bar nearby. It was fun but I think it has seen better days! lol! Also on the way we were able to stop by the building where our Chicago ABC7 nightly news is broadcast live, you can watch through windows from the sidewalk. I watched part of the 10:00 news and really loved that. I'm a news junkie so this was really cool for me. I didn't think you'd like the pics as much as me so I refrained from sharing them. :)
After our exciting night we headed off the Abby's neighborhood about 15 minutes away the following morning and we did a little shopping with her and her guy, Tom. It was a lot of fun until a heavy mix of rain and snow started to fall. We had a really cool lunch at a place that featured artisan beer and an eclectic menu (pizza with dates and feta cheese?). So much fun. Here's Tom, The Husband and Abby.
A good look at the place, The Corridor Bar and Provisions on the Northside of Chicago
We were rain soaked and trying to keep our spirits up as we walked through the alley on the way to Abby's coach house after lunch. I was in the middle of belting out Singing In The Rain when I stepped into a huge pothole filled with rainwater. Down to my knees I fell as both hands were holding shopping bags, leftovers and my purse. To add insult to injury, my face also dipped into the pothole and was drenched as well as my hair. I must have looked like the Loch Ness Monster. In any case, I have two skinned, black and blue knees. I am ever so grateful that my hands were full and I didn't use that bad arm to break my fall. I did however, look like a drowned rat! lol!
Switching gears, this is a little snack I made for The Husband and I on Sunday. I'm full on with my Atkins diet again as of January 1. It's the only way I lose any weight. Sweet Potato Fries. Love them. No recipe, just a few tips. Peel and slice, I like them cut like steak fries as they shrink up. Toss them in a large bowl with a little veggie oil and a bit of salt and paprika. Spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper---this is a key, otherwise they will brown horribly on the bottom and stick. There you go, perfection.
All has been going along pretty well since Saturday. Aside from painful and skinned knees and a lot of chronic pain in my lower back that always seems to occur around the holidays, I've been good. Oh, I have to complain about the old broken arm. Terrible. I am so confused about it. My fingers actually hurt when I move them and everything is restricted by the pain. I can't hold things nor open a simple bottle of water. The Husband has recommended a great university doctor but I really want someone local. Not sure what I'll do but I will do something. This is so crazy. Calluses, scar tissue...who knows. It's just not right and since this is my dominant hand and arthritis could be in the future, I want answers now.
Okay, at the risk this could be called Blondie's Pain Journal, I'll stop. Next time I want to share a giveaway I recently won and some books I've managed to read in the past week. And a few things I missed in my Year In Review posts. I also want to tell you guys that I've finally determined that my posts are just a little too long and drawn out and it's my plan to do shorter and more frequent posts which will make things easier to digest---for lack of a better word. And I may be able to write a bit more about what I think as opposed to what I do.
We have had frigid temps here in the Upper Midwest...single digits big time. It's 5 degrees right now and it will be 1 degree tomorrow morning. I'm pretty good here, I did some grocery shopping Sunday when it was a mere 25. I froze but I'm quite used to it. This is really unpleasant to put it mildly. I watch my dog babies closely and I'm happy to stay cozy at home. :)
I'll be back soon.