Thursday, April 5, 2012

Being a Cubs Fan

In honor of today's Cubs home opener at Wrigley (literally one block from my house-- I can see the actual field lights from my kitchen window) I decided to discuss a theory I've been mulling over in my head.

I'm from Chicago.  I've been a Cubs fan since birth and everyone knows it.  No one would ever dare call me a fair-weather fan.  That being said, I'm actually not sure I want the Cubs to win the World Series.

I know, I figured you might have that reaction.

Of course, I cheer my heart out for my Northsiders and am crushed when, year after year, our season ends in or before the playoffs.  But lately I've been considering what it would mean for our city, nay, our country if the Cubbies actually pulled off clinching the Fall Classic title.

It's a bizarre phenomenon that everyone loves the Cubs (sorry Sox fans).  We haven't won the World Series since 1908 and honestly haven't even had that many awesome seasons.  Yet year after year, people from all over the world come for a photo with our iconic red scoreboard, a foil-wrapped hot dog, and severely overpriced Old Style beer.  Why?  Because they want a piece of tradition.  Baseball is America's game, and (outside of the East Coast) the Cubs are America's team.

We're the underdogs.  The long-shot.  And I think I'd like to see us stay like this.

See, if we win the World Series, I think our Cubbies would lose a lot of their magic.  Everyone loves to cheer for them, but strangely enough I think a lot of that comes from our losing streak.  People know the legend of the goat, and nobody really cares what the score of the game is going to be.  Sure, we love seeing the white W flag flying high over the ivy but at the end of the day, watching the Cubs play is more about the experience than the outcome.

Plus, I can't even fathom what ticket sales would be like for the years following a championship victory.  Well, actually I can.  The White Sox won in '05 so it would probably be like that-- a few years of madness and raised prices, then back to the same-old-same.  And that's not ok!  I'm worried everyone would be even crazier for the Cubs than they already are, and then with a recent championship on the board, we'd sink into anonymity.  I love seeing Cubs fans everywhere across the country and I never want that to change.  I'd rather have over a century without a title than a few years of fair-weather fans and a couple decades of apathy. *shudder*

On the other hand, it would be a ridiculously euphoric dream come true if my boys on the North side won the Series this year, while I'm living near Wrigley Field.  Earlier this week I came across a blog: Rants of a Deliberate Smartass.  Basically it sounds like my everyday Tweets.  Anyway, this anonymous (well, at least to me) Cubs fan blogged about the commercial for video game MLB 2012 The Show.  Oh. My. Gosh.  He's 100% correct-- this is what it would be like if the Cubs won the championship.  I straight up almost cried.

So I guess I'm torn.  I've lived here long enough to see the mania surrounding the Bulls' 90s Dream Team, the South siders' 2005 World Series win, and the Hawks' 2010 Stanley Cup victory (sorry Bears, I was born in '87), so I know how much fun it would be to see my Cubs follow suit.  But the idea of losing our (inter)national fan base and become a run of the mill losing team terrifies me.

I guess the best compromise would be to see the Bears win the Super Bowl and keep my Cubs as America's favorite underdogs.

Have a great Thursday and GO CUBS GO!!!
=)  Jules

Note: all images are just from a general Google search and are not my personal property, but that of the websites from which they originated.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

First Outdoor Run of 2012

Yep, you heard me!  Last night I finally had my first outdoor run of 2012 and it felt great!

I hate treadmills so when I go to the gym I usually do the elliptical.  It's ok, but I'd much rather do a Muscle Max or Spin class-- the problem is that after work, I usually get to the gym about 10 mins after a class started and have no desire to wait around for 50 mins for the next class to start.  And there are SOOOO many people at the gym between 5:30 and 8:30 during the winter that it's practically impossible to get enough space to do weights.  May need to find a new gym by next fall...

I digress.  As always.

Back to running!  Aside from a little jogging one cardio-filled evening, I haven't actually gone running since probably September or October- yikes! My body doesn't like to run but my mind does, so there's a constant battle going on when I hit the pavement.  Being knock-kneed, I'm super self-conscious about how I look when I run, and I have a tendency to unintentionally scrape my ankles with the opposite shoe. Plus I get fierce chafing because it's physically impossible for my thighs not to rub.  Ugh!  On the other hand, I love trekking through the neighborhoods and feeling that sense of kinship with everyone else out running in the Chicago air.  Like I said, my body hates it and my brain loves it.

You can read more at my old blog, Jul's Fitness Journey

Lately I've been doing a lot of walking.  Last week I walked to the Loop from DK (my office) and then home to Wrigleyville from the Loop, for a total of about 7 miles!  Then my sinuses kicked in, as always, and I had to work from home cuz I was sick =(  But once I felt better I did another hour of walking.  Monday I skipped my workout to watch the Pretty Little Liars season finale (because they finally revealed who A is!!! Or at least one of the A team....) and then on Tuesday night I walked the 4.5-5 miles home from DK.

So after having seen the bazillion (yes, that many!) people out running as I was walking home the past few trips, I decided it was time to join them.  I put on my sweet new gear from Old Navy (who knew?), laced up my old New Balance shoes, started Run Keeper, downloaded Pandora (I told you, I haven't run in a while!!) and hit the streets.  Here's my run summary from Run Keeper:

So proud of myself!

For anyone who doesn't know, Run Keeper is sort of like a free version of the Nike+ app.  You can either have it track you via GPS as you run, or enter your route & details before/after your workout.  It even tells you your progress along the way: "Time: 10 minutes. Distance: 0.94 miles. Average pace: 10 minutes 26 seconds per mile." If you don't have the Nike+ system, I highly recommend downloading Run Keeper!

I had a great day yesterday!  Even though I ate 28 WW points plus (my allowance is 26 points) I got in a solid 30 minutes of running at a < 11 min/mile pace and another 30 minutes of brisk walking.  Plus I got to enjoy the warm spring night!

Hope you've gotten outside for the nice weather!

Have a great Thursday =)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Does red meat = Death? (I hope not!)

We all know research, no matter how reputable the source, will always be countered by the opposing side.  Eventually.  This article I found interesting though, like everything, you should take the information with a grain of salt.

An LA Times article yesterday (which I found through a FitFluential tweet) sums up a Harvard study, also published yesterday, which analyzed the diet and health patterns of over 110,000 adults over a 20+ year period.  The results?
Eating red meat — any amount and any type — appears to significantly increase the risk of premature death... Even worse, adding an extra daily serving of processed red meat, such as a hot dog or two slices of bacon, was linked to a 20% higher risk of death during the study.
We all know red meat isn't the best choice, especially of the pre-packaged, processed variety.  Not surprisingly, the article also mentions eating it in moderation.  Duh.

However the article also implied that even in moderation, people should stick to non-red meat.
...[Harvard postdoctoral fellow] Pan said the bottom line was that there was no amount of red meat that's good for you.
What I don't understand is that, if this is the case, why have humans been eating cows and pigs for hundreds of thousands of years?  If these animals were created for consumption, and we're learning they're not good for consumption, what are their purpose on the planet?

We know it's not milk-- humans are the only species that continues to drink milk after nursing, and the only species that consumes the milk of another species.  Kinda weird, if you think about it.

At the end of the article was a blurb about an editorial published with the study that mentions the economical and environmental benefits to a plant-based diet.  This is absolutely true.  I did a bunch of research when I became a vegetarian and learned that the amount of grain and water given to livestock could really solve some global human deficits, which is why it makes me so happy to hear about people participating in Meatless Monday and taking efforts to waste less water.  I came across this infographic from PETA which explains it succinctly.  And no, I'm not advocating anyone become a vegan or join PETA or anything, but they're knowledgeable and tend to make sense (at least to me).

Side note: I'm no longer a vegetarian (I wasn't healthy about it) but I still don't eat that much meat, and I'm not a big fan of processed meats.  Just about my only exception is ballpark hot dogs... I can't resist them at Cubs games, but thankfully they just switched vendors, so I'm looking forward to some Vienna Beef all season =)  I'm also not a vegan, nor do I buy vegan products, but I do have some serious internal struggle because of it-- I love Coach bags and Ugg boots, but I wish they were faux... And I'd love to give up meat & dairy altogether but the vegan alternatives are just so expensive and without them I'm personally unable to have a healthy vegan diet. Like I said, internal struggle. UGH!!

I'm pretty sure most of us already eat small to moderate amounts of red meat.  Chinese Beef with Green Beans once a month is usually the only red meat I consume, though with Cubs season and grilling season coming up, that may increase a little bit.  But frankly, I just think chicken is way easier to cook!

What are your thoughts on red meat?  Do you eat it or avoid it?

Have a great Tuesday =)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Brunch Review: Toast

So I wrote this post a couple weeks ago but for whatever reason never got around to publishing it...

Yesterday morning my grandparents came in from the suburbs to see where I live and hang out for a bit.  They got in around noon and came straight to my apartment, where I gave them a quick tour (we were hungry after all).  Now, I've been hearing about this little place called Toast from my friends-- because in Chicago, brunch is everyone's favorite weekend hobby-- but it's not in Lakeview so I hadn't been yet.

I decided we would take advantage of the fact that Grammy & Pa drove in, and I could finally try Toast.

Sadly I didn't take any photos, but this is from

Oh. Emm. Gee.  It was a.m.a.z.i.n.g.

We went to the original location in Lincoln Park, at Webster & Halsted.  Parking wasn't too bad, but in the city you absolutely need to know how to parallel park (and sadly, a lot of people don't seem to have this skill down).  When we got there we were told it would be 45-60 mins, which definitely isn't the worst wait I've seen for brunch, so we walked down the street to Starbucks.  After a leisurely 40 mins at Starby's we went back to check on the wait at Toast.  Thankfully the wait wasn't as long as the hostess had originally quoted, and we were seated immediately.

The four-top booth against the window is where we sat (from

The place is tiny, probably only seating about 22 at the tables and another 5-6 at the counter, so you're seated about a foot away from the table next to you.  I like restaurants like that, they're more cozy =)

The interior of Toast - note the Art Deco feel (from

I ordered the Pesto Scramble, Grammy ordered the Eggs Benedict special, and Pa ordered the Omelette Lorraine.  Oh, and Grammy and I also split a Nutella crepe (because we needed a break from our savory entrees. And who in their right mind can resist Nutella crepes?)

I'm obsessed with the Pesto Scramble.  It was scrambled eggs with tomato, prosciutto, gruyere cheese, and fresh house pesto.  I can't even describe how delicious it was.  I think angels were singing and dancing on my taste buds.  A lot of places that serve pesto scrambled eggs or pest omelets tend to not use enough salt or don't season it further, and this was not the case.  It was salty, but not too salty, the cheese was melty without being frustratingly stringy, and the prosciutto was a perfect addition.  I absolutely loved it.  And the breakfast potatoes served with it were cooked exactly as I like them, which I have found is apparently difficult for most restaurants.  I usually try a bite or two of the potatoes and then ignore them, but I ate everything-- literally, everything-- on my plate.

Grammy was thrilled with her Eggs Benedict special, which had bacon and asparagus.  A friend had told me Toast has the best Hollandaise sauce she's ever had, and Grammy was just as enthusiastic.  She said Hollandaise can sometimes be too heavy and overwhelm the dish, or be too light and barely add flavor, but she said her Eggs Benedict was one of the best she's ever had (and she eats E.B. a lot.  Like at least once a week, a lot).  Pa said his Omelette Lorraine was fantastic, but he's a man of few words so I don't know much more beyond that.  He practically licked his plate clean though, so I know the combination of applewood bacon, gruyere cheese, onion, and chives must've been good.  The Nutella crepe was good, but we made the mistake of waiting until after everything else to enjoy it, so it wasn't warm anymore.  Should've ordered it when we were close to finishing our main dishes.

Overall, we all gave Toast a five out of five review.  We loved everything we ordered, and Grammy & Pa were pleasantly surprised to discover Julius Meinl coffee.

I'm on a quest to go to as many brunch places as possible, but I'll for sure be going back to Toast in the near future!

What's your favorite brunch spot or your go-to entree?

Have a great Monday =)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Mini Quarter-Life Crisis

Last night I suddenly had a little freak-out.

Thankfully one of my roommates was out and the other one had just gone to bed.

All of a sudden I realized that I finally became a "big girl".  And for some reason that made me feel like I was all alone.

I just started my new job (salary, not hourly pay, and benefits!) on Wednesday at DK and that involved paperwork.  Which included W-something tax forms.

And for the first time ever, "no one else can claim me as a dependent."

I'm officially independent!

And in my late-night mind last night, that somehow went from being awesome and exciting to completely scaring me.  Seriously, I started pacing around my bedroom and maybe even shed a few tears.  I looked my ugly-crying face in the mirror and asked myself why I felt like this.

And I realized it was because I was completely exhausted and couldn't even think straight.

So I went to bed.

And today I felt a lot better =)

Hope you saw Channing Tatum on SNL tonight!! Mmmmm....

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Learning to Cook: Pesto Pizza

Part of this learning-to-be-an-adult process is the fact that I now have to fend for myself in the kitchen.  Thankfully Real HouseMom is a whiz in the kitchen, so I've helped her here and there and picked up some of her tricks.

But not enough that I actually know how to cook.

Because I don't.

I mean, I'm great at boiling pasta, mashing potatoes and scrambling eggs (and I make awesome sauteed vegetables, if I do say so myself), but beyond that I'm clueless.

Thanks to my addiction obsession with Pinterest, my Food board is chock-full of meal ideas that I want to try.  I asked for (and received) a Crock-Pot for Christmas, so there are a ton of slow-cooker recipes that sound delightful.  I've repinned meals that are low-fat, meat-free, extra-cheesy, five-minute and every other category you can think of.

My theory is: the more ideas I have of yummy meals, the more likely I am to actually teach myself to cook......and not just order from Grub-Hub or fix myself a PB sandwich.

ANYWAY, I digress (as always).  So.....

Drumroll please.....

Here is the first meal I made for myself in my new big girl apartment (courtesy of that $130 trip to the Jewel).

I was too excited to take "during" photos, but I'm proud of the "after"!  Plus it's too easy to need photos =)

TA-DA!!!  It's a pesto pizza!

And seriously, it was delish!

Here's the recipe that I loosely followed: Budget Bytes' Pesto Focaccia Pizza

By loosely, I mean that I just bought a whole-wheat pizza crust.  I'm learning to cook.... teaching myself to make pizza dough/focaccia bread is way too much at this stage.  It was fun and super easy-- just a pre-made pizza crust, jar of pesto, bag of shredded Mozz and some roma tomatoes.  Even I couldn't screw it up!  I just followed the cooking instructions on the label of the pizza crust and it turned out great =)

If you have any recipe recommendations or first-time cooking tales, I'd love to hear them!

Have a great Thursday =)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Fresh Start!

I realize it's been a long time (about two months!) since I last posted.  That's because shortly after we were in Columbus, GA, our team manager Emm got herself a job in Oklahoma City (where her brand new boyfriend lives) and put in her two weeks' notice.  The Office then promoted me to team manager and sent a member of another team--that had just closed out--to fill in for her.  Thankfully Cee and I got along great!  The last month of tour flew by, including Thanksgiving in Little Rock, a couple NHL games in Raleigh and a visit from Boyfie while in Columbus, OH.  Friday, Dec. 16 was the last day of our contract, and I finally got to go home and see my family.

Now, I had already signed a lease for an apartment (well, it's the second floor of a city house) in the Wrigleyville area of Chicago.  And I decided Boyfie and I were going to spend New Year's Eve in the city so I informed my family that I was moving out between Christmas and New Year's.  So on Thursday, Dec. 29, a whole army my family & "friends" helped move me out of my parents' house in Naperville and into my new apartment in Chicago.  Real HouseMom's best friend's hubby has a sweet Ford pickup truck, so he and Soccer Dad loaded my new box spring, mattress, dresser, and whatever other big stuff we were moving and headed to the apartment.  Real HouseMom and Brosef stocked the Toyota Highlander with a bunch more of my stuff (bins, boxes, etc.), while Boyfie and I filled my Mazda Tribute (her name is Charlie) with all my hanging clothes and a couple other last-minute things.

That's our house!  We live on the 2nd floor, with the "balcony" we could use if we had a death wish.

Thanks to switching rooms in the sorority house every semester of college, I've become a master at moving stuff and getting it set up and put away asap.  Tip: the easiest way to move clothes is the way you want them!  All the stuff you'll have folded up in your dresser can be "packed" in the drawers for transport, and everything you'll have hanging in the closet can just be left on the hanger and carried like that.

So I was all moved in and settled in time for New Year's Eve at Mystic Celt in Chicago!

Boyfie and me -- first picture of 2012!

Yesterday Boyfie left-- after a wonderful six-day visit!-- and went back to Indiana... and my bff {future} Mrs. K came to visit with her almost-16-month-old daughter CJ.  We went to lunch, played on my bed, chased CJ back and forth across my apartment (she just learned to walk) and looked out the window at dogs that passed and left-up Christmas lights.  Love that little munchkin, she and her brother GG refer to me as Aunt Jul =)

Soooo today was my first really independent day since I moved in almost a week ago.  The charming sounds of the garbage trucks in the alley outside my back-of-apartment bedroom window woke me up at 7:33am but I didn't mind being up.  Eventually I got out of bed and, acting all domestic-y, decided to make some tea.  I don't know why, and I hope I'm not alone with this problem, but for whatever reason I always forget that I have a tea bag steeping.  Half an hour later I had tepid, horribly strong tea that even a packet of Sweet-n-Low couldn't salvage.  Down the drain it went.

Undeterred, I was determined to have a productive, grown-up day.  I wrote a check for my rent, which I dropped off at my landlady's house about 5 doors down, and even changed my mailing address through the US Postal Service and the three magazines I subscribe to.  So far, so good.

Then came my grocery shopping trip.  Thankfully there's a Jewel-Osco a couple blocks down Addison, since I don't have my car downtown.  Since I always just impulse-buy whatever sounds good and then end up with the most random pantry ever, I thought it would be wise and mature to plan out my meals ahead of time, then just buy the ingredients I need.

I'm so glad I did that.  The combination of higher prices (and higher taxes) in the city plus the fact that I had absolutely NO food in the house-- including staples like milk, peanut butter, cereal, etc-- meant that this will be the most expensive grocery shopping trip I'll ever make (until I'm a mom trying to feed a horde family).  The total?  Almost $130, and that's after my $15 preferred card savings.

My receipt from the Jewel.... Yikes!!

Anyway, today is Real HouseMom's birthday, so I'm about to take the L to Union Station to catch a train back to Naperville for dinner with the fam.

Have a great Hump Day =)