weekend eats

Velvet Taco and The Chopping Block

As usual, there’s only one excuse for not blogging in three+ days (Saturday and Sunday count as one day, by the way): I was too busy living to write about living.

I feel like I didn’t sit still this entire weekend, which is always a welcome feeling (unless, of course, you’re doing things you don’t want to do. I don’t let this happen too often, however, so usually when I’m “busy,” I’m busy doing fun things. It’s a nice problem to have). Ever since I made a conscious decision to be a “yes” person, my days and nights have become filled with one adventure after the other. So what have you guys been up to these last few days? You all feel like strangers to me. Let’s change that.

On Thursday night I met my mom for dinner at Velvet Taco, a new taco joint located just around the corner from where I work. I’ve been wanting to go for awhile now and luckily she agreed to be my date.

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YOU GUYS.

This place is the BOMB.

I tried two tacos: The WTF Special (lobster salad, avocado, sea salt and arugula) and the Tikka Chicken. The Lobster was pretty freaking delicious but the Tikka Chicken was out of this world. Crispy chicken smothered in spicy pepper sauce, buttered cilantro basmanti rice, raita crema and thai basil. It took me to the moon and back. I’m in love.

Afterwards I met Colleen for drinks at Havana, a Cuban hot spot located downtown. Margaritas ensued – always a great idea.

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Pretty soon we met up with Spencer and a few other friends at the House of Blues to see one of our favorite high school bands. You know the kind. The ones whose songs come on your “Best of the 2000s” Pandora playlist and immediately transport you to that Friday night when you were about to get your first kiss and had a container of Vaseline in your coat pocket (not Chapstick, no, you weren’t cool enough for that) that you kept frantically putting on because you were so nervous (that’s not a true story or anything…..) But yeah. We saw Motion City Soundtrack.

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We also clearly got the most sober person in the room to take our photo:

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Friday was a pretty chill day and night — I went in to the store and then I got to see my college girlfriends who I realized I hadn’t seen in a month (!!!!). Never letting that happen again. Time can slip away from you if you’re not careful.

Saturday I woke up bright and early for a yoga sculpt class at CorePower. I know I’ve said it before but if you’re in the area and can get into Ariel’s class, do yourself a favor and get there. It makes my weekend.

That afternoon my dad came into town and we headed to The Chopping Block for a knife skills class!

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I’ve been trying to go to this class for more than a year. My brother got me tickets for Christmas LAST year and I ended up cancelling at the last minute. Thankfully time flies, and this year I managed to clear my grueling schedule for a few hours to take this fun class with my dad.

It’s no surprise that just being in an ornate kitchen for a few hours was paradise for me. And at the end of the day, even though the class itself wasn’t revolutionary, I learned how to properly chop an onion so I’m calling it a success.

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Sunday I somehow convinced more people to go back to Velvet Taco with me because once I get a restaurant stuck in my brain, I go there waaaaaaaay too many times until I’m sick of it and can never go back. Also, you know you’ve been someplace too many times in one week when the manager comes up to your table and when you introduce yourself, he mentions how he recognizes you from the “many” times you’ve been in. Yiiiikes.

It was a blast of a night. I met and chatted with some of the staff and ended up spending the better part of three hours there. It’s such a warm, welcoming spot that I felt so comfortable just hanging out with my friends there after work. This time around I tried the fish taco and buffalo chicken taco and was once again not disappointed. That Tikka Chicken still holds the #1 spot in my heart, though. And because I couldn’t possibly love them more, the kind managers treated us to two orders of their signature tater tots as well as their homemade red velvet cake. Shoutout to Cory and Rory for making it their personal mission to make sure their local lululemon girls won’t fit into their yoga pants come June.

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I’m really excited for this week! Tomorrow is the first day of the Girls on the Run season so I’ll be meeting my girls. I’m also starting a new fitness challenge for the month of March that I can’t wait to share with you. Let’s just say, good thing I fueled with those tots. It’s gonna be a burner.

Questions:

  • Tacos: what’s your favorite kind?
  • What was your favorite band in high school?
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Whoops I almost missed Monday

So….apparently it’s Monday. I definitely knew that I just couldn’t get it together to write last night. I was up way past my bedtime thanks to the SNL40 Special, which was everything I hoped it would be and more. Did anyone else watch? What’s your favorite SNL skit of all time? I say anything with Kristin Wiig or Stefon. Or whenever Jimmy Fallon was in a sketch and he breaks out laughing (in other words, every skit he’s ever been in). Or when Justin Timberlake, the most talented man on the globe, makes an appearance. Or The Californians. Too many great moments to choose from!

It was such a full weekend — I spent almost every minute with friends.

Friday night I went home for my high school’s annual fundraiser. Every year they shut down for about a week and turn the place into a “town.” The hallways are completely decorated, the gym is turned into a casino, and each classroom is booked by local bands or comedy groups (usually parents and alumni).  I’d been in the past when I was in high school (the under 21 crowd goes on Thursday nights every year) but this was my first year going on the weekend. Nothing like seeing your Catholic high school dean drunk in the hallways where she once yelled at you for not having your shirt tucked in. Good times.


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You can’t tell but this picture was taken in front of my Freshman/Senior year locker. It was so funny to be there with a drink in my hand (let’s not even get started on the fact that there was a margarita machine in my old AP Government classroom).

Saturday was about as stereotypical as it gets — no shame.

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Red Robin lunch date with Kari + the above movie. If you need me to explain then you’ve obviously been living on a rock so we can just move past that. All I’ll say is, if you read the books, it was a really good adaptation to the big screen. If you didn’t read them, you probably thought the world is going to hell in a hand basket.

I rushed back home to the city that night just in time for a romantic roommate dinner at Portillo’s, aka the one place that didn’t require a reservation.

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I dove headfirst into the chopped salad because I truly believe it is made of sparkles and rainbows. I almost went for the famous cheese fries but knew I needed room for the real star of the show:

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Love Is: CAKE SHAKE. For any non-Chicagoans out there, it is a chocolate shake with a piece of chocolate cake blended into it. And it is fabulous.

I made grand plans to go out on Saturday night but the windchill was below zero so I spent the night in front of a space heater, eating chocolate from my freezer and watching shitty Netflix movies.

I had to work on Sunday but once I was off I stopped by Trader Joe’s, got the fixins for make-your-own pizzas and headed to Spencer’s for the SNL special. It was a fun group of people and I ate my body weight in pizza, Ranch Wheat Thins (revolutionary!) and red velvet bundt cake.

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My face hurt from laughing so hard during the three and a half hour-long show. I was a little sad that the “confirmed” N*SYNC reunion didn’t happen haha but there was way too much good stuff to even notice.

So all in all, it was the best kind of weekend. Minus the fact that I didn’t work out once…yikes. Back on that train today, I guess!

Other highlights from the weekend:

  • I tried Jimmy John’s for the first time and didn’t hate it
  • Taylor Swift finally put out the “Style” music video
  • I helped Whitney from this season of “The Bachelor” pick out yoga pants at lululemon. Don’t say I never did my part to change the world.

Questions:

  • Pizza: homemade or delivery?
  • Did you watch the SNL special? What’s your favorite sketch of all time?
  • How was your Valentine’s Day?

Weekend Happenings: #diningin update, Swift-level 10, and Sweat Chicago

Well I officially went a full week without going out to eat! I technically did pay for a slice of pizza in the wee hours of the morning after last night, but that doesn’t really count, right? Because of this challenge I was able to force myself to be more creative in the kitchen and be better about prepping food the night before. When your veggies are chopped and your snacks are all in Ziploc bags in your purse, it makes #diningin so much easier. It didn’t even feel like a challenge, to be honest. That being said, OF COURSE I decided to do this challenge during RESTAURANT WEEK in Chicago haha. OF COURSE I did.

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The best thing I ate all week (3 times, actually)?

Sweet Potato Nachos. Susie, I will forever be indebted to you for this inspiration.

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I’m also back on a Vitatop craze. Have you ever had them? They’re 100 calories (chocolate chips not included haha) and they taste like a piece of chocolate cake. They aren’t the cheapest things in the world but they were on sale at Jewel so I stocked up on a few boxes to satisfy my ever-present chocolate cravings.

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And instead of going out to brunch on Sunday, Megan and I had  the brilliant idea of inviting friends over and making our own. It was the best idea we’ve had in awhile and for approximately $0 we had an incredible two hour meal full of eggs, potatoes, banana muffins, mimosas, and country music.

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Don’t look at me like that. I worked up quite the appetite the night before dancing until dawn. My friend Kelsey was housesitting for a verrrrry wealthy family in Lincoln Park so we had a few drinks there before going out. We spent a few hours drinking nice wine, eating nice cheese, and taking “fancy lady” photos in their living room. And next to their elevator (that was IN the house). I honestly didn’t know places like this existed in Chicago.

unnamed (15)Afterwards we met up with some friends for a girls night out in the River North neighborhood. We danced until the wee hours of the morning. Those are the best kind of nights — you start off at a Swift-level 2, just bopping around in a general fashion.

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By midnight you start throwing some random arm motions in there, taking it to a Swift-level 5…

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And then by 2am it’s a full-blown Swift-level 10, and you think you’re the hottest thing in the fifteen-mile radius.

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So true.

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On the workout front it was a pretty successful week. I’ve stuck to my goal of working out 5x/week in 2015, but haven’t been able to make it 6x, like I said I was trying to do lately. Oh well — 5 feels like a great balance, where I can still manage to work, write, have a social life, and workout consistently. I’m just going to go with it.

Weekly Workouts

  • Monday: Sweat Chicago (bootcamp #1)
  • Tuesday: 25 min HIIT
  • Wednesday: 5 mile run
  • Thursday: Yoga Sculpt (60 min)
  • Friday: Sweat Chicago (bootcamp #2)
  • Saturday: REST
  • Sunday: REST

Bootcamp #1

6 Rounds of :45 Work/:15 Rest at Each Station of:

  • Rowing
  • Box Jumps
  • 5% Incline Walk (4.5 Speed) w/ DB Presses
  • Double Crunches
  • KB Goblet Squats
  • Plank Row to T Rotation w/ DB

Bootcamp #2

3 Rounds w/ 1min Rest Between of:

  • 4min Incline Run (Increase Incline 1% EMOTM)
  • 1min Rest
  • 4min AMRAP of:
  • 8 Push Ups
  • 8 Tricep Box Dips
  • 8 DB Bent Over Tricep Ext (Together)
  • 8 DB Curl & Presses
  • 1min Rest
  • 4min AMRAP of:
  • 8 Russian Twists (Per Side)
  • 8 Sit Ups
  • 8 DB Toe Touches

I’ve been attending Sweat a lot more lately, as I’ve grown close to the owner and a lot of the people who workout there. I love that it’s always a variety of high intensity exercises that last approximately an hour, but it doesn’t include Olympic-size weights. Now that I’ve officially lived in the city for just over two months, I’m going to calm down on the “try all the workouts in Chicago” approach and start being more consistent at Sweat. I’ve settled on what I love and what I don’t care for, and I know that at the end of the day, consistency is key to me being in the best shape. So Sweat it is!

Phew. Is it Friday yet? I want to do it all over again.

Questions:

  • What was the best thing you ate all weekend?
  • Vitatops: yay or nay?
  • Dancing: do you follow my Swift-levels theory or are you just an all-out amazing/terrible dancer?

Weekend Writer’s Block — Adventures in Chiberia

**Disclaimer: massive amounts of writer’s block going on over here. Please excuse what can only be described as a random explosion of my thoughts**

Don’t you hate days when you want to write, but you just can’t come up with the right words? I guess we’ll just have to do what anyone would do in an awkward situation: talk about the weather.

I have never seen such a drastic change in weather conditions.

24 hours ago I was casually running along the Lake Shore path in crops and a vest. And today? This is what we woke up to:

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Over a foot of snow. And the one thing I learned about living in the neighborhoods now instead of directly downtown? No one shovels anything. The sidewalks were a disaster. But let’s backtrack…

Friday night I went bowling with my college friends. I always go into bowling thinking I’m really good and then I’m lucky if I break 100. It’s that lefty curse, I’ll tell ya.

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Saturday was “date day” with my mom to round out her birthday week. We spent the afternoon baking cookies and went to our favorite suburban sandwich shop for the best tuna melt in the continental US. This will always be “our spot.”

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I got back to the city around 5pm, but since it was almost spring-like on Saturday and I knew a blizzard was coming, I threw on my running shoes the second I walked into my apartment, turned right around, and knocked out a beautiful 6 miler along the lake.

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I really went for it, outfit-wise: camo running pants, purple shoes, black vest, orange top. Ridiculous.

Saturday night was spent celebrating Spencer’s birthday. I’m so lucky to have that guy in my life. We’ve been friends since we met on the first day of high school and it really is awesome that we’ve managed to stay close ever since. We went to Headquarters in Lincoln Park, a bar completely dedicated to arcade games, so it was a fun night filled with singing Blink182 in cabs and playing pinball.unnamed (25)

Aaaaand then the Great Blizzard of 2015 hit. Okay, New York, you’ve got nothing on us. It started snowing last night around 8pm and hasn’t stopped since. We were able to catch a cab to our Superbowl shindig but ended up having to walk home afterwards…a not so pleasant experience. It took us an hour to go one mile, most of it spent walking in the street because at least those were semi-plowed. Luckily we were able to laugh about it so we stopped a lot to take silly photos and eat the leftover cookies I brought to the party.

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Oh, and just because it wouldn’t be Superbowl Weekend without some commercial-talk, here is my favorite ad of the night. I lose it every time the polar bear pops up.

Thank goodness there were still some funny ads  — too many of them made me want to either a) call my dad and tell him I love him or b) never have kids because apparently he or she might get into the chemicals under the sink. I’m all for the emotional but I’m not looking to cry when I’m elbows-deep in some buffalo chicken dip.

Sometimes weekends are a blur, and this was the case the past two days. But one thing I do know is I laughed non-stop. As I’m writing this up my cheeks hurt from all the laughter and smiling the past two days have brought me. I got to do all the things I love: run, eat buffalo chicken dip, watch football AND Katy Perry, celebrate a friend’s birthday, spend time with my family, and bake. Perfect.

And just because this is the funniest thing I’ve seen in awhile:

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Questions:

  • When you have writer’s block, what do you do? Write, or skip a day?
  • Favorite kind of cookie? I made monster cookies for the Superbowl: m&ms, chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, oatmeal and rice krispies! They were killer.
  • Best thing you ate at your Superbowl Party? BUFFALO CHICKEN DIP

NASM update, metta success, and college-town cavorting

It’s been awhile since we’ve talked, hasn’t it?

I was on a serious roll the past few months, but I have to be honest: the next two months I’m going to be just a bit less consistent. I’m in the home stretch of NASM studying and really need to focus on that. It’s tough to work, blog, and study, not to mention be committed to fitness and having a semblance of a social life while doing those three things. Writing is my outlet, though, so I’ll still be around. But that NASM textbook is my new #1 priority until the second week of January.

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The metta movement on Friday was a HUGE success! Dave DID run the full 100 miles and raised more than his $25,000 goal – last time I checked he was at $28,950! That means even MORE kids are going to have that life-altering surgery. I’m not going to lie–the whole experience moved me. We surprised Dave by holding up photos of the kids he was running for and he broke down in tears every time. Needless to say we all broke down as well. I had a moment later in the weekend where I realized just how crazy it is that $250, something I would spend on clothes, shoes or food in a few weeks, can completely transform a child’s life. It is the difference between living as a leper and living in a world of possibility. I thought about those 100 kids that Dave’s feat is going to help. That’s 100 people who will now be able to thrive in society – they may go to college and discover the cure for cancer or become a global diplomat and solve world hunger. It’s just a mind-blowing thought and extremely, extremely humbling.

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I spent the remainder of my weekend in Ann Arbor on a road trip with my girlfriends from college. Martina (think hipster-architect and probably the actual inventor of Pinterest) is going to the University of Michigan for grad school (Go Blue!) so we drove up to spend the weekend with her. We ate bagels and pizza like it was going out of style, laughed constantly, and danced until the early hours of the morning, losing complete track of time.

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See this is what I hate about not blogging for a few days – I start to remember a million random things I want to share with you all and there’s just no ebb and flow to the post anymore. Maybe I should rename my blog to “I Had A Big Lunch – Now Read My Word Vomit.” But anyway, did I tell you that I tried barre finally? I’ll share my review of the studio another day but it totally kicked my butt in a way that my butt has never been kicked. It wasn’t a “holy crap look how much I’m sweating” -type workout. More of a “holy crap how long can I hold my leg up like this before getting a debilitating charlie horse” and “holy crap there are a lot of mirrors in this room so I should probably actually hold a firm core for the first time in the history of a group fitness class.” Stellar.

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Just another new fitness routine to add to the mix. Can we add another day to the week so I can fit in all the workouts I want to do every week? That would be perfect.

So tell me…

Questions:

  • When was the last time you stayed in a college town? Did you have a blast or feel like an old prune in a sea of young, prime grapes?
  • What’s your opinion on barre workouts?
  • What was something funny, embarrassing or crazy about your weekend? Did you finally go for it and spend $15 on that jar of nut butter or spend six consecutive hours watching cat videos on YouTube?

Halloween 2020

In a surprising twist of events, Halloween 2020 ended up happening six years early.

Apparently if you have an open day and a whole lot of friends whose plans are cancelled last minute, you can throw an adorable ALMOST Pinterest-esque Halloween party. No, there weren’t donuts hanging from trees or apple bobbing, but there was Catch Phrase, spiked cider and squash so I’d say it was a success.

I started off the day in pure pumpkin bliss: pumpkin pancakes (my favorite Kodiak cakes + pure canned pumpkin + spices) and coffee filled to the brim with Bailey’s pumpkin spice creamer.

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Once I heard that people were going to come over after all, I got to the prep. We ended up with quite the feast, thanks to some easy recipes and family brainstorming.

The final spread:

  • Shrimp cocktail
  • Tortilla chips and homemade guacamole
  • Grapes
  • Clementine Jack-o-Lanterns
  • Greek yogurt Spinach dip and pita crisps
  • Candy corn and peanuts
  • Spiked cider
  • Dirt cups (vanilla pudding + orange food coloring and crumbled oreos)
  • Delicata squash roasted with coconut oil, stevia and cinnamon

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We spent the night listening to the monster mash, handing out candy to a dozen characters from Frozen, playing Catch Phrase, and watching “Zodiac.” It was everything I imagined my Halloween 2020 party to be and more.

And just when I thought the weekend couldn’t get any better, I totally kicked butt in the breakfast department on Saturday. I was running early for work so I decided to take myself on a little date to my favorite bagel shop downtown, NYC Bagel Deli. This place rocks my world. I had an everything bagel with two eggs, cheddar cheese, tomatoes and green peppers.

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Please let there be bagel sandwiches in heaven.

Questions:

  • How did you spend your Halloween?
  • What’s your favorite Halloween candy?
  • Have you ever played board games at a party? What’s your favorite?

weekend in rhymes + workout accountability

Having a schedule like mine is super weird. Not sure if I’ve mentioned that before (sarcasm).

Sundays used to feel odd – like the “end” of something. Now it’s just another day, and knowing that this morning is a Monday ain’t no thang. That being said, the one thing I do appreciate about the weekends is I get to spend a lot more time with loved ones (because, sadly, most everyone else has a normal life and they use the weekends to do activities. how rude).

Lot’s happened this weekend. so let’s be obnoxious and rhyme about it.

There was spinning, painting, applesauce-making and Red-Robin-shaking (those bottomless fries, yo):

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There was running at sunset down Lake Shore Drive (with donuts on donuts for my running to thrive):

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There were babies in costumes I creeped on online, and Hawks game raffles where I won a prize:

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Popcorn and sweet potatoes, surprise surprise. You fools dominate my taste buds, despite all other tries:

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Okay end rhymes. My “Sunday night glass of wine” brain thought that was a good idea five minutes ago but now it’s clear I’m running out of juice (both figuratively and literally).

Finally, a few funnies to start your week:

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Just kidding that wasn’t last – I have to keep making sure that I’m holding myself accountable for my workouts. I did pretty well this past week!

Workout Accountability 10/20-10/26

  • Monday: 4 mile run
  • Tuesday: Body by Jake full-body video (free on Hulu!)
  • Wednesday: Yoga Sculpt
  • Thursday: Flywheel
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: 5.25 mile run

HECK YES!

Questions:

  • What was your favorite workout this week?
  • Do weekends seem like a big deal to you or do you have a wacko schedule too?
  • Ever been to Red Robin? What’s your favorite thing there? (bottomless fries are a given).