Studio Review: Orangetheory Fitness

I recently had the pleasure of trying out a new studio in Chicago – Orangetheory Fitness.

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Now, Orangethoery isn’t a new workout – in fact, the phenomenon has been around for a few years already.  But it’s quickly making its mark in my fair city so I was excited to give it a whirl.

“The physiological theory behind the Orangetheory workout is known as “Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption,” or EPOC. By providing you with a heart-rate monitor and POD, we can monitor your 5-zone interval training sessions that we call the Orange 60. During the 60-minute workout, you will perform multiple intervals designed to produce 12 to 20 minutes of training at 84% or higher of your maximum heart rate, which translates to Zones 4/5. This program design produces workout “afterburn” effect, which is an increased metabolic rate for 24 to 36 hours after the workout. When combining the amazing workout with EPOC, our clients burn an average of 500 to 1000 calories.”

When they reached out about trying a class, I knew I wanted to right away. HIIT workouts are my jam, after all. So I happily jumped on the bus one Friday morning to check it out!
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I was pleasantly greeted by the staff as soon as I walked through the door. Steven, one of their ambassadors, signed me in promptly and then came out from behind the desk to sit with me and discuss my fitness goals. I have never had anyone do that with me before, even at my favorite studios. It was so personal and welcoming.

My favorite part of the questionnaire was “One a scale from 1-10, 1 being you can’t walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded and 10 being you can run a half marathon, where would you say your fitness level is at?” I was amused by that question because I’ve made jokes that no matter my fitness level, I guarantee I will always get winded climbing a flight of stairs. I have no idea what’s wrong with me. So I played it safe and said 6 – didn’t want to head in there too confident, seeing as I had no clue what was in store for me.

The good people at Orangetheory recommend arriving 30 minutes early before your first session, and with good reason. After the questionnaire, I met Ryan, my instructor for the day, and he led me into the studio to take a look at and explain the equipment to me.  We worked through how to properly wear my heart rate monitor, how to use the water rower, what the different “zones” mean on the treadmill, and what the strength portion would look like.

Pretty soon the rest of the class began filtering in and we were off.

“The Orangetheory Fitness training session is comprised of three components: treadmill interval training blocks, indoor rowing and weight room or resistance training blocks. These Orange 60 sessions are open to all adults and teens, ages 16 and older. All fitness levels are welcome as our program is specifically designed for everyone from power walkers to elite performance athletes.”

Since it was a smaller-sized group, we all started on the rowers. Usually the class is divided in half, with half the class starting with a treadmill series and the rest doing rowers/strength. First we did a quick warm-up on the rowers (thank goodness Ryan had corrected my form earlier because I wouldn’t have known how to fluidly move on the rower without his instruction).  After the rowers we hit the floor for a TRX and free weights strength series. I very much appreciated that the room was full of TVs with someone simulating each exercise. I tend to zone out when I’m working out, so it’s always tough for me to remember exactly what I’m supposed to be doing and for how long. At other studios I always find myself looking at the board over and over again trying to refresh my memory, which probably wastes a decent amount of time, so I loved this about Orangetheory Fitness. We had six movements total, and the combinations made for a great overall workout. At the very end we did some core work (my nemesis) and even though I hated every minute of it, it definitely felt like the cherry on top of a very balanced fitness sundae.

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The second part of class consisted of 25 minutes on the treadmill. We started out at a “base pace” (mine was 6.0 aka 10 min miles) and then consistently did bursts of higher speeds throughout the time, all while on a 1.0 incline. At one point I was sprinting at 10.0 feeling like the roadrunner.

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At the end of class I found out that the man on the treadmill next to me was John, the owner of the Wicker Park location (no pressure at all). We had a great talk about what makes Orangetheory special, and between that conversation, Steven at the front desk, and the instructors, I could definitely grasp that “family feel” that he was touting.

After my first two visits, my only gripe is that I had an issue with my heart rate monitor getting a continuous read. They recommend spraying it with a bit of water before you hook the monitor around your breast bone, and I most likely did it wrong. So besides the fact that the HR monitor just wasn’t having it, I’ll live. I’m fine working out without a heart rate monitor, but if I AM going to wear one, I want it to be accurate. After all, it is a noticeable piece of  equipment tightened around my body and not exactly the most comfortable. I also wasn’t totally sure how to get into the right “zones” and what exactly I should end with (in terms of that colorful bar graph on the TV), but I know that is something that comes with going to the classes more frequently.

My favorite part of the class? It was manageable. No, it wasn’t easy. But it was something I feel like I could do almost every day. I am lucky that I work for a company that pays for me to work out, but if I didn’t, I would be skeptical to invest my money in a single membership anywhere, especially at places that I didn’t feel like I could really commit to. But this was one of the most balanced workouts I have experienced in awhile and I will definitely be back. Cardio + strength combinations is where it’s at.

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Orangetheory Fitness has multiple locations in Chicago, but I’ve only ever experienced the Wicker Park location. So if you want any more info about that particular studio, reach out to me and I’ll give you Steven’s number – we’re on a texting level now NBD.

Here is the list of all this state’s locations — they’re taking Illinois by STORM:

Prices:

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I’m always wary when prices aren’t directly listed on a site. I honestly think the prices of Chicago studios scare about 75% of people away which is why they encourage you to try the first class for free, talk it over with the staff and trainers, and figure out if it’s right for you. Bottom line, first class is free. Try it — no risk — and see if you get hooked.

And as always, if ANYONE is nervous about trying a new studio alone, please shoot me an email and I’d be more than happy to attend with you.

Questions:

  • Orangetheory Fitness: yay, nay, or eh?
  • Favorite workout song now that gets you pumped up — go!

Inaugural CARA Run, Father’s Day, and Old Lady Fun

Justttt when I say I’m leaving for good, I pop back onto IHABL.

First things first: it was my first marathon training run of the season! I’m in an interesting spot right now because even though this week’s run should only be 7 miles (for the Chicago Marathon in October), I’m also attempting to not die during the Rock n Roll Half Marathon in July — so I knew I needed to do more than that to make sure mama’s still got it.

I rolled out of bed bright and early at 5:30am Saturday morning and ran to Foster Beach to meet up with CARA for the second run of marathon training season (my first).

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I had no idea what to expect from a CARA run, as it’s my first time with the organization. Luckily it was much less intimidating than I thought. The group was easy to find, there were speakers with music blasting, and pace groups that were easily marked. Who knew so much activity happened in the city before 7am! I found my pace group and even recognized a few girls who had been in the store before, so I was cool as a cucumber. The whole “fake it til you make it” advice really is true.

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It was awesome! There were hundreds (and I mean hundreds) of runners out on the path throughout our run. Everyone yelled hi to each other, we ran 2×2 (Noah’s Ark style), and there was even a gatorade station set up along the way?? The running community is pretty incredible — this is going to be a fun summer.

All in all, (3 miles to the site + 7 miles with the group), and before I knew it I had covered 10 miles!

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I hobbled home, had an appointment at Delos where a very European no-nonsense therapist dug his elbows deep into my hip flexors and foot arches (best investment I’ve made in a long time), and soon headed to the Farmer’s Market with Colleen. We had waaaay too much old lady fun exploring.

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Sunday was spent with my #1 fan, although these days I really think those roles are reversed. I love this guy! We ate great food, played (terrible) golf, sat on the deck in the sun, drank sangria, and just spent some quality time together.

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  • How did you spend Father’s Day?
  • What’s your favorite part about farmer’s markets?
  • Running groups: love ’em or hate ’em?

Did you miss me?

I know, I know, I took away the most exciting part of your day: checking IHABL for updates on this weird excuse for a life that I lead. My apologies.

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I’m in the midst of what feels like the busiest month of my life thus far (never one to shy away from dramatics), so, as I explained to Erin when she stopped by the store the other day, something had to go. And trust me, I wish it wasn’t writing. Because truth be told, if I could make a living off eating, working out, and writing about it, you know I’d be all about that life. But sadly that isn’t the case, and it’s crunch time in the next 30 days to accomplish my goals. I’m taking on more responsibility at the store that I think will propel me to growing with the company, I take my NASM personal training exam in less than a month, and I’m taking over full duties as run club coach for the store. It’s a lot, and it’s a lot happening fast.

I’m also trying this weird thing called a personal life — networking events, nights out with friends, happy hours, you know the drill…all while balancing those pesky adult tasks — looking for an apartment, handling my student loans, etc. etc. Too much fun stuff. So you’ll have to excuse me if I don’t pop up around the blogosphere as much as normal. I’ll try my best to keep up on your blogs, even if I don’t always comment. And hopefully when I come back in full force all my blogging friends will be here with open arms to welcome me back! In the meantime, life has still treated me well. My best friend is back in Illinois (praise Jesus Hallelujah), there have been some bright sunny days in the midst of mostly springlike weather, and the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup and essentially turned my neighborhood into a 24 hour party.

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I’m checking out the new Orangetheory studio in Wicker Park tomorrow so be on the lookout for a studio review coming soon! I’ve had a serious lack of hustle lately.

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However lunch will never be cancelled.

Responsible Weekend Sandwich

Do you ever feel like your personality can do a complete 180 on a whim?

This past weekend pretty much felt like that for me (as most weekends tend to do…)

We’ll call it the “Responsible Weekend Sandwich.” Lot’s of calorie-laden, lethargy-inspiring decisions sandwiched by ultra-healthy behavior. If I had to title a book about my everyday life this would have to be it.

It all started responsibly enough. I worked a fun seven-hour shift on Friday, headed to CorePower for a sculpt class at 7:15, made a healthy meal (sweet potato nachos FTW!), and went to bed at a decent hour. I think I even had a glass of water with my meal. Big, healthy things happening over here. Including these muscles:

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Who wants to meet up in a dark alley?

Thennnnnn came the meat in this “Responsible Weekend Sandwich.” Aka Saturday. Aka I overslept, skipped my morning long run, got in a car and drove to Tinley Park for a day-long alternative music festival, and subsequently drank 120 oz of beer. Yes, I did the math.

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Between the heat and the 10 hours of non-stop music, it’s really no feat to have had six 20-oz cups of beer. But thinking back on it today it makes me want to punch myself in the face. That and the Pringles. So many Pringles (they were on sale, I don’t want to talk about it).

The “meat” was the best part of the weekend. 10 hours of seeing some of my favorite bands live? I can’t even tell you how happy I was! Do you think I can convince the guys of Smallpools to lease an apartment with me?

Waking up Sunday wasn’t as bad as anticipated — and I was able to get to work and have a kickass time. I was tired by the end of my shift but some friends from the store convinced me to grab dinner and I knew I would be much more likely to eat vegetables at a restaurant than I would at home. So we headed to Doc B’s for giant salads.

IMG_5629Black Tiger Shrimp Salad: Field Greens & Avocado Vinaigrette, avocado, peppadew, red onion, jicama & feta

Is anyone else a HUGE fan of jicama in the summer?

And now, to metaphorically slab the sprouted grain piece of bread on my Responsible Weekend Sandwich, I just finished up journaling. Yep, goal-crushing over here.

Question:

  • Any jicama recipes you’re willing to share?
  • Do you often get caught in a healthy or unhealthy “sandwich” of sorts?

My Fair City

I set out for a run yesterday with no path, mileage, pace, or goal in mind. I just wanted to see my city. Anyone who is from Chicago or has visited knows that it’s like five different cities in one — so much changes with every turn.

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I covered about seven miles, turned down three dozen streets, navigated around hundreds of tourists, and avoided death-by-Divvy bike approximately ten times. I am so head over heels in love with this city — it’s so alive.

Now, ENJOY YOUR WEEKEND! Can I suggest something to watch just before you leave the office?

This made my week.

Questions:

  • Best dance scene in a movie — GO!

What Is Bravery?

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I never thought I would be talking about Caitlyn Jenner on IHABL. It’s not really an appropriate platform for it, in my opinion. That being said, I think one thing has been dragged into the conversation that definitely deserves to be talked about: bravery.

I have seen endless photos of firemen, policemen, and soldiers flooding my Facebook newsfeed from people trying to start a revolution about what bravery really means. As if there is some golden standard by which you can call yourself brave. As if there is some universal bravery scale ready to measure you up in some universal bravery contest.

Regardless of whether or not you believe in/understand/accept the transgender community, no one gets to monopolize the word bravery.

Bravery can be found in a fireman OR a dyslexic teenager applying to college.

Bravery can be serving in the armed forces OR quitting a job that isn’t your passion

Bravery can be found in a policeman OR the protester exercising his or her right to free speech.

Most people reading this blog, including this author, have dealt with a lot in life that have required bravery. Even just in the past few weeks I’ve read it all — diseases, divorces, eating disorders, injuries, mental health issues, addiction, trauma. All from men and women who I have grown to love as I’ve ventured through the blogosphere. I really, truly feel for your pain. If I could jump through the screen and save you, hug you, warm your heart in any way as you’re struggling, I would. Because you all are so, so brave. And I’ll be damned if someone tries to belittle your courage because it doesn’t fit their cookie-cutter description of the word.

This isn’t about Caitlyn Jenner. It isn’t about what your personal belief on that issue is. This is about what bravery is. And bravery is not theirs to define.

June Goals + National Running Day

Happy National Running Day! I hope all the runners out there are getting some miles in to celebrate (I know I am)!

Let’s talk JUNE GOALS! So many other bloggers share goals at the beginning of every month. And while I usually shy away from doing so (because — cliche alert — I’m afraid of failing), I’ve become much more comfortable with goal-setting lately. It’s a huge part of my job and so the initial “rip off the bandaid” anxiety is over. You just have to realize that goals are just that — goals. They can be modified along the way, you can end up not completing them, whatever. But sharing them with others makes you 10x more accountable than if you just let them float around in your head.

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Go to Delos Wellness 3x per week

I’m training to run a marathon. I am bad a stretching. I wasn’t a math major but it sounds like my legs and back are going to be needing some TLC throughout the next few months. Thank goodness I discovered this place! It is life-changing! Delos Therapy is precise manual therapy for chronic pain and pain management. Direct pressure is applied to detailed points along the entire muscle, which forces a stretch of the myofibrils and individual muscle fibers, relieves hyper-contraction and congestion, and results in restored function and relief. In other words, it’s like a massage if the massage made you want to cry. I’ve met a lot of the therapists there and they all make me so excited to train and take care of myself. Plus they offer a discounted rate for members of the Chicago Area Runners Association — so many perks to being a part of that organization! I consider it an investment in my health — hey, I’m asking people to donate money to my marathon fund, I better not get injured and have to back out!

Attend 3 concerts

This shouldn’t be an issue. I’m going to Piqniq this weekend, and free concerts in the park start downtown this week. So let’s call this an easy goal, but a goal nonetheless!

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Meditate 1x/week, Journal 2x/week

I get wrapped up in my busy schedule way too easily. I’m always running late, always out the door going to this meeting, that workout, this event or that shift. And even when I’m commuting, I’m responding to comments, reading blogs, answering emails, scheduling community events for the store…it’s just never-ending. I’m prone to panic attacks, so if I don’t start getting this under control I’m going to continue to feel like I’m at the end of my rope. My therapist has suggested I sit down and write in a journal a few times a week, and after only one time it gave me so much relief. My mom has suggested I meditate more, and even though that makes me uncomfortable, I’m going to commit to doing it at least once a week, as a place to start. I have the physical health thing down — now time to make sure I keep up the mental health too.

Go To Chinatown

I just met a girl at dinner the other night and learned that she is an Asian food expert. I am PUMPED! I don’t have too many friends hankering to spend a day in Chinatown but it’s always been in the back of my mind to go. I don’t even particularly love Chinese food — I just really want to go with someone who can show me the best of the best. I want to feel like the female Anthony Bourdain. Antonia Bourdain. So at some point this month, I’m going!

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What are your goals for June?

Girls On The Run 5k

Saturday’s 5k celebration wrapped up my volunteer season with Girls On The Run. It’s the culmination of all the girls’ hard work throughout the season.

I woke up bright and early Saturday morning to take the L to Millennium Park — bright and early being 5:30am. It was a brutal time to hear that alarm going off but luckily I hopped out of bed and was ready in just a few minutes. As a coach I had to be at the site at 7am to check in the girls, their running buddies, and pick up the girls’ bibs and running packets. Of course, seeing as it was dawn I had one important stop to make beforehand:

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It was a Venti kind of morning.

I arrived at the site just after 7am thanks to CTA delays (you know what I’m talking about Bethany). My assistant coach had already picked up the packets so I headed over to our meeting spot to get the girls all set up, bibs on, and stretching.

My favorite part about the 5k was the parents’ involvement. The girls aren’t allowed to run alone, so they have running buddies who complete the race with them. Every single girl had either one parent or a few family members show up to run with them. It was funny because I hadn’t heard from a single parent the entire 12-week season so I got to meet a lot of them this weekend for the first time. Nothing like saying “Hi, nice to meet you! You’re welcome for babysitting your daughter for the past three months! ” I kid but not really…

Everyone was pretty apprehensive before the race. The forecast called for thunderstorms and wind so we were all on edge throughout the morning. Luckily we were in corral A so the girls were off right at 8am and done by 9. I wanted to do cartwheels of joy when I realized that as my girls were wrapping up their 5k some of the other groups hadn’t even started.

We did a bit of dynamic stretching (most of which included the girls rolling down a hill…I am not meant to be a teacher…zero discipline happening over here), got the girls’ bibs pinned on, took some mother/daughter pictures, and headed to the starting line. With Selena Gomez blaring over the speakers, the girls were off just before 8am. Everything ran so smoothly!

The other coach and I went down to the finish line to wait for our girls to arrive.

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There was a bit of rain but nothing compared to what happened later in the day so we really avoided the worst of it! As the girls ran past us with their running buddies I got more emotional than I thought I would — it was so wonderful to see them push so hard at the finish. I honestly didn’t realize how much I loved those girls until the very end when I saw them pushing to finish the 5k! I teared up thinking about how great the girls are — so confident, goofy, independent, and strong, and I had a great sense of pride being a part of Girls On The Run. As a woman who grew up in this crazy society myself, I know how hard it can be to hold on to those unique parts of yourself in a world that tells you to be more normal, quieter, smaller, and less expressive, while also making you question your worth based on impossible physical standards. These girls are too young to be affected by most of that but soon enough it will happen. And I’m just so hopeful that their involvement with Girls On The Run will make them stronger to fight it. GOTR is all about learning how to be strong and healthy, physically, while also teaching them values about friendship, self-confidence, and kindness. And even if they didn’t take much away from the season, I hope that I had a small part in helping them grow stronger.

I felt like a proud mama bear at the end of the race and insisted on tons of pictures with all the girls. Now I know why moms do that!

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The girls grabbed their medals, bananas, and water and just like that, the season was over. I have to admit it was weird to just have the families walk away afterwards. I felt like I wasn’t getting any closure on a program that I volunteered for for 12 weeks. But I guess that’s what they say — you have to give without expectation. That’s the point of volunteering, right?

When I moved to the city, I knew I wanted to be a volunteer. I wasn’t sure how, but I’m so happy that I decided to volunteer for GOTR. It taught me so much, including the fact that I am not born to be a teacher! I have a new-found respect for teachers — just three hours a week was exhausting.

So — will I work with the program next year? Yes. Will I be a head coach? No. I was unfortunately placed at a site where the Site Coordinator, aka the person at the school who was supposed to be my main form of contact and connection to the school, was completely MIA the entire season. There were multiple days when I prepared a lesson, showed up, and there was no school so no one was there. There was no communication about how to get the girls their after school snacks, where we were supposed to run, how to enter/exit the school, who to talk to to set up our bake sale, etc. For all the school knew I was just some stranger who roamed their hallways on Monday and Thursday afternoons. That being said, towards the end of the year things got exponentially better as one of the moms came to every practice and took charge. She organized the bake sale and end-of-the-year party and communicated with the principal about our program and plans. I really couldn’t have done it without her. I’m happy that I was a head coach this season, but for net year I will definitely stick with the assistant coach role, and I will definitely make sure to lay of my expectations for what the site coordinator’s responsibilities are at the beginning of the season.

If you’re interested in volunteering for Girls On The Run for their fall season, give it a try! I highly recommend working as an assistant coach — in that role you only have to commit one day a week for 90 minutes. As a head coach you are required to volunteer twice a week for three hours, not including lesson planning, so just consider what you can handle.

At the end of the day, GOTR is a non-profit, and as we all know, non-profits are disorganized. But I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything, despite the challenges. Because overall, I got to hang with some pretty cool third graders for 12 weeks and that alone was worth it.

Questions:

  • Have you ever work with Girls On The Run?
  • What’s the best organization you’ve ever volunteered for?

Roasted Tomato Quiche Provencale

In lieu of “What I Ate Wednesday” I decided to get atop my high horse and tell you, instead, what you SHOULD eat this Wednesday. And on this Wednesday you should eat this quiche.

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Roasted Tomato Quiche Provencale

Ingredients

  • 1 frozen pie crust (or make it yourself, if you’re feeling fancy)
  • 3 eggs, 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 Roma tomato for topping
  • Olive oil
  • Herbes de Provence

Directions

  • Cook pie crust according to directions. Set aside to cool.
  • Prep your vegetables. Throw your cherry tomatoes in an oven-safe container lined with foil, toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and Herbes de Provence. Don’t be stingy! Make sure each tomato has some seasoning, because this herb makes a huge difference in the taste of this dish. Roast the tomatoes at 400 for 10-15 minutes, or until the tomatoes start to pop open. Chop the roasted tomatoes into bite-sized pieces.
  • While your tomatoes are in the oven, start sauteeing your onions on medium-low heat with some olive oil, salt, pepper, and more Herbes de Provence. Cook the onions slowly, until tender and soft (about 10-12 minutes). Add the garlic and the chopped roasted tomatoes to the mix over low heat for 10 minutes.
  • Remove vegetable mixture from heat and allow to cool completely in a large bowl.
  • Once vegetables are completely cooled, add the eggs to the glass bowl.
  • Pour the egg+vegetable mixture into the prepared pie crust.
  • Sprinkle the top with the Parmesan cheese and add Roma tomato slices on top for presentation.
  • Bake at 375 for 35-45 minutes, or when the middle is set and puffed up, and the crust is golden brown. Every oven is different.
  • Serve with a side salad — I like mixed greens with a homemade garlic dressing (EVOO+balsamic+garlic)

It’s buttery. It’s flaky. It’s cheesy. And it tastes just like the South of France. Enjoy!

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Weekend Happenings: there’s a carrot in my taco

Happy Memorial Day, folks! I hope you’re starting your day with some exercise, followed by a big ol’ cookout and time spent with friends and family.

I’m grateful to live in a country where people have fought for my freedom. I was just watching Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” and on this particular episode they went to Myanmar. It’s unbelievable the restrictions and censorship that still exist well into the 21st century. I definitely take liberty for granted sometimes, so it’s good to stop, pause, and remember those who cared so much about defending freedom that they died.

The weekend started early with our Girls On The Run Community Impact Project. The girls decided to raise money for PAWS by hosting a bake sale during their lunch periods. I went to the school early Friday morning to drop off cookies and help set up

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Impressively enough, the girls raised $430! I’m thinking there were some overly-generous parents, otherwise there may be some new cases of diabetes at that school. However it happened, it was exciting to see how into it the girls got. We’re hoping to go to PAWS this week to drop off the check and really show the girls how to impact their community from start to finish.

Friday night was low-key because I had to be up early Saturday morning and lead run club for the store. My alarm went off at 6am Saturday morning and I immediately started thinking of all the excuses I could come up with to skip the run. Alas, I was feeling to mature and responsible so I was out the door in ten minutes and on the path.

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Even though it was early in the day, it was hot as hades. Within the first mile I was sweating like a chicken on a rotisserie. My running partner had some sage advice for me that I’ll definitely remember next time: “If you’re not cold when you leave the house for an morning run, you’re going to be too hot.” Preach, Tommy, preach. I felt like an Amish woman covered from head to toe, and was not pleased.

The only solution was to 90s-it-up and tie my jacket around my waist. High-fashion rolling, that’s for sure.

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I’m so happy that I womaned up and completed the run. The best part about running groups is they keep you going, that’s for sure. I know I would have walked a portion of the 7 miles due to the heat but, being the competitive spirit I am, I didn’t want to in front of the other runners. Success.

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The views always keep me going too. Chicago comes alive in the summer.

I took the whole weekend off of work and made the most of it. After some stretching and icing, I made breakfast and then Megan and I sat outside on our porch in the sunshine.

unnamed (5)Scrambled eggs, strawberries, and a Kodiak cake.

Later we walked to the Belmont-Sheffield Music Festival to enjoy that classic festival vibe: free music, expensive beer, cheap clothes and jewelry, and fried food.

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We enjoyed some cinnamon-sugar mini donuts, 312s, and live music. Even though it was a No Doubt cover band (I do NOT like Gwen Stefani) it felt like the official start of summer. And that felt great.

Dinner was out in the Wicker Park neighborhood where I met up with some of my coworkers. Big Star is known for its margaritas and summer patio scene, so when you venture out there, you can expect at least a two hour wait.

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We waited about an hour and a half for our table and then immediately ordered a pitcher of margaritas and some snacks.
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The guacamole and margaritas are my favorite things at Big Star, but since it was a long day and I was hungry, I tried a few of their tacos. I’d had the fish and pork shoulder taco before, but this time I tried some newbies:

  • Taco de panza: crispy, braised pork belly, tomato guajillo sauce, queso fresco, onion, cilantro
  • Taco de pollo pibil: chicken thighs steamed in banana leaves, achiote and citrus marinade, pickled red onion, cilantro
  • Taco de zanahorias: mole spiced carrots, chipotle date yogurt, pumpkin and sesame seeds, almond, cilantro

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I loved the chicken and pork, but the carrot one (on the far right) as extremely underwhelming. The waitress said it was her favorite…further proving that I will I never be a vegetarian. Nothing can compete with meat.

After a busy weekend, I made a last-minute decision to go home and spend some time with my family. I tried to stay away for awhile but I just like those people way too much. So I had a lazy Sunday, capped off with a movie I’ve been wanting to see.

WILD-poster-crop

I feel like everyone can relate to this movie somehow. It definitely struck a chord in my heart.

Questions:

  • What’s the longest you’ll wait for a table at a restaurant?
  • How are you celebrating Memorial Day weekend?