Enjoying Epicurian Diversity Chicago Style

My Sweet Home, Chicago!

My Sweet Home, Chicago!


There isn’t much that rejuvenates and inspires quite like a trip back to a place where you feel roots and strong ties; to land, community, and the general life. Going back home to Chicago is always a special treat for me because I get the opportunity to explore so many different ethnic foods (that I miss when I’m away). I also get the chance to spend time with people I love, who love me back and know the me I used to be and appreciate the person I’ve become. The above view is the Chicago skyline taken from the balcony of my sister’s condo where I was staying.

Mmmm.... Sushi!

Mmmm…. Sushi!

I got to do all of the above on this trip…and also had the chance to enjoy the musical mecca that Chicago becomes in the summertime. I knew this trip was going to be foodie fantastic when my sister picked me up from the airport and we started our weekend with sushi. Neither her hubby nor mine are big fans, and neither were with us, so we indulged at this fantastic place called Kamehachi. Our server was wonderful, the food was beautifully prepared, and we were able to enjoy outside seating in mid-70 weather.

My sister was also a big fan of their hibiscus tea. Me? I believe you don’t fruit the salad and you don’t flower the tea…LOL! But it worked for her, and it was refreshing. Did I mention we also did not have a wait to be seated? Heck, in Chi-town, the Open Table app is all the rage to prevent wait times, but it never became a concern. We still used it several times, though. Better safe than sorry.

Tapas and Café Iberico

Tapas and Café Iberico

Dinner that night was later, so we decided on some fun, not too heavy fare. One of the beautiful things about Chicago means being able to WALK to many of the places we visit. This beautiful evening was no exception. After my brother-in-law got off work we headed to Café Iberico for some tasty tapas!

For those of you who don’t know the history of tapas, it’s kind of interesting. This was Castillian Spain’s version of bar food. In fact, even the word tapas is a reference to lids….often used to cover the food to keep fruit flies away. 🙂 Want to know more about the stuff? Click HERE for your Spanish history lesson!

Lemon Pancakes and Asparagus, mushroom, and bacon omelet

Lemon Pancakes and Asparagus, mushroom, and bacon omelet

The following morning my sister introduced me to the joys of brunch at Kingsbury Street Café. Nestled next to the VIP Lounge (Yes, Phil, it’s a strip club), it served the most luscious lemon pancakes. Because my sister’s sweet, and I’m a bit savory, we decided to order stuff we could share. Their multigrain toast baguettes were fresh, with a sweetness that did not require any jams (at least in my opinion). The omelet? To die for…AND they didn’t overcook the asparagus. Did I mention they had fabulous coffee as well?

What was really awesome was that one of my childhood best friends had left her kids with her hubby and come into the city to spend the weekend with us…just like we did when we were kids. Don’t get me wrong, I’d have loved to hang out with her munchkins, but this was some much needed grown up unwinding time, complete with booze.

Drinks and Indian Food

Drinks and Indian Food

Breakfast at Hotel Sister

Breakfast at Hotel Sister

Yup! Once she got to town we decided it was the perfect time to pop her cherry. It turned out, she’d never had Indian food, so we took her to Jaipur Indian Restaurant and introduced her to the joys of things like naan, samosas, chicken tikka masala, dal, and the ever so tasty gulab jamun!

And when we’re eating all sorts of flavor exploding dishes, it only made sense to enjoy some lemon-tinis. 🙂

Of course, the morning of the concert I had the pleasure of enjoying familial hospitality at my sister’s place. She made the most amazing baked French toast with a caramel praline topping. She even had home made/tapped syrup that a close friend of theirs harvests on his own. How cool is that?

She also pampered me with awesome cappuccinos and lattes that she made, herself. The only thing missing was the fancy froth designs, and to tell you the truth, I didn’t really miss it. I mean, who am I kidding? It’s not like the folks at Starbucks bother decorating my froth before they put lids on my drinks, either…and hers were even tastier (and FREE!)

Me and a childhood bestie

Me and a childhood bestie

After such phenomenal home service we decided to chillax a bit, catch up, and enjoy the day. We took my sister’s dog for a walk, visited their local animal shelter, the Anti-Cruelty society. It was pet adoption day and I thanked my lucky stars that I live far away, because it helped prevent me from coming home with every puppy they had up for adoption. How cool is it, though, that they had Darth Vader and some Storm Troopers to help get all those adorable furry friends into new, loving homes? Yeah….there were a lot of folks doing just what my friend did. Selfies with the Star Wars villains. 🙂 Me? I stuck to the huggable, loveable Dalmatian. My sister’s pup got plenty of love and attention from everyone. In fact, their official professional photographer insisted on taking a pic of her dog with the white storm troopers. (While I’m thinking on it, please hold a good thought for him. He’s been having some eye issues that are going to need to be resolved with doggie surgery. We’re hoping they won’t have to take his eye.)

A couple of friends stopped to by to surprise me!

A couple of friends stopped to by to surprise me!

Fish and Chips with Cider

Fish and Chips with Cider

That afternoon, after our dog walking adventure we got ready for an early supper, then the Blake Shelton concert. We decided to head to Duke of Perth for the best fish and chips in town, and some cider to wash it down. What was really awesome was that because I’d checked in on my phone app, a couple of childhood friends stopped in to say hello and give hugs! Don’t you just love surprises like that? It made my day to know that they went out of their way just to stop and say hi.

Although Duke of Perth is quite well known for their whiskey, we wanted to be sober enough to enjoy seeing Dan + Shay, The Band Perry, Neal McCoy, and, of course, Blake….at the legendary Wrigley Field! Now, I’ve always enjoyed Neal McCoy’s music, but after catching his sense of fun and humor, I’ve decided I’d be perfectly okay with being in the center of a Neal and Blake sandwich. 😉 Next to Blake, he was my favorite part of the night.

When the time came to say goodbye to my sister and my favorite town, it was with a heavy heart. There’s something about my home town that uplifts me. I love that no matter how often I come back I discover some new gem either while still being filled with nostalgia. What do you love most about going back home? Or, if you never left, what places would you recommend to someone visiting your home town?

I’ll leave ya’ll with this awesome song… Tell me how many famous guitar players you can name. 😉

A Foundation Of Tears And Trust

Patrick Thomas from the first episode of The Voice does an amazing cover of Rodney Atkins’ song, “Invisibly Shaken”. The song resonates with me, and I really love Patrick’s pared down version.

What do you do when the your foundation gets shaken? Sometimes it may be a relationship, like in the song. Sometimes it can be a crisis of faith. Maybe it’s not your faith being tested, but your sense of belonging. Maybe it’s a loss or upheaval in your family. Regardless of the circumstances, we all have those times where our internal strength gets tested.

“God will not test you beyond what you can bear.” That’s the promise God gives us on 1 Corinthians 10:13. But there are moments, aren’t there? Moments when you wonder if that’s really true? For some people it can be an untimely or unexplainable loss that brings on the crisis. Cancer, accidents, violence…things that happen way too often. Or maybe it’s just an incongruity.

Have you ever walked into a church, heard a message…maybe through the preacher or through the songs and hymns being sung…but the message sent by the behavior of the members, or even the minister didn’t match? Were you that person who felt unwelcome? Unaccepted? Unloved? Unimportant…even in God’s house?

It’s a challenge, isn’t it? To hold on to what you know is right and good and faithful when everything around you is shaking and crumbling? I often wonder if this is how my sister-in-law felt when she was told that her only son, my nephew, had committed suicide. I knew it destroyed my husband, though he wasn’t my husband yet. It was also his first close, personal experience with loss. I know so many of us asked the questions that Blaine Larsen asks in this next song.

Sadly, often when we ask those questions, all we come up with are more questions. Many either question God as to “why?” or even “where were you?” or “How could you let this happen?” Everyone’s ability to cope is different. The pressure point can vary from person to person. No matter how strong a person is, there IS a breaking point. What I’ve learned through life is that we were NOT meant to live it alone. God sent us each other to push through till times get better. Things that may not seem like much to you can be the thing someone uses to hold on and pull through. Oddly enough, it was my experiences with my brother that prepared me to help him and his family during their time of grief.

I was 15 when my brother died. I’ve talked about him before, so some of you even know the circumstances surrounding his death. I was a freshman in high school. Moved to a private church school, I didn’t feel very welcome. Most of these kids had been together since kindergarten, and I was the new girl in.

No one made it easy for me. In fact, girls being what they are at that age, all but two of them had decided they hated me on site. The one had grown up with me, and had been one of my closest church friends in our younger years. The other found out I grew up like a sister to the boy she had a crush on and hoped that being nice to me might get her a date with him. The guys? At first they were very welcoming, excited to have “fresh meat” in the classroom. It all changed when they realized I wasn’t really interested in dating. My brother had just died, we’d moved neighborhoods, moved schools….been taken away from everything that was familiar to us. Dating was the last thing on my mind! Coping was the best I could hope for.

Something happened about a month into my stay at this school that changed everything. School had just gotten out and an impromptu softball game had broken out at the baseball field across from the school. Fingers wrapped in the fencing, head tipped up to enjoy the sunshine, I stood, enjoying the last of our Indian summer day when I heard footsteps approach.

Turning, I saw an underclassman friend from church. I smiled, “Hey! How are you?”

Hoisting his foot up to rest it in a fence rung, he nodded. “Doing ok. I hear you’re really popular, though.”

Confused, I turned to face him completely. “Popular? Me? I hardly do anything.”

“That’s not what I’ve heard,” he said, tone sympathetic. “I’ve heard you’ve had a new boyfriend practically every week. I just thought you should know.”

Suddenly, I wanted to throw up. “It’s not true.”

“I know that.” He shuffled his feet. “The damage has been done though.”

Nodding, I headed for the bleachers and grabbed my books. “Thanks for the heads up.”

Without any effort on my part, I’d become the school slut. While I’m grateful to my friend for warning me, any sense of welcome I might have felt from the few people who faked their friendship to me was gone. Dried up with a few pointed words.

I didn’t want to go back. Part of me wanted to lash out. It was all so unfair, but what could I really do? I couldn’t tell my mom. She was going through enough! This was her second son she’d lost. No parent should have to go through that. I didn’t want to burden my little sister, though I was pretty sure she had been hearing the rumors about me too, by then.

If there’s one thing I have in spades, it’s pride. I would not ever give them the satisfaction of seeing me cry. So the next day I walked in to school, determined not to show any sign of weakness.

God has funny ways of giving us gifts in the midst of these painful times, though…if we just look for them. Mine came in the form of a boy, two years younger than me. I’d met him on registration day, but he was shy, so I spent more time talking to his older brother. This day was different. He walked right up to me.

With a bashful dip of his head, hazel eyes looked up at me through a fringe of thick, dark lashes, “Hey.”

Surprised, I smiled. “Hey, you!”

He reached out for my hand, sliding something small in it. “I just wanted you to have this. It’s nothing much.”

Looking down, I realized he’d given me a class picture of himself. By the time I brought my eyes up to say something, he was gone. I lifted the picture to look more closely. Flipping it over I found this message: “If you’re missing your little brother, and you need one, I’m here.”

Even at that age I was floored. What a kind and generous offer to make someone you barely knew. Still determined not to let anyone see my tears for fear it would be interpreted as a sign of weakness, I calmly walked into the girls washroom, entered a stall, locked the door and sat on the toilet. In that safe place I let tears of gratitude flow at his compassion.

In two days I felt like I cried a million tears…some filled with pain and anguish, while others were of gratitude, healing and catharsis. Looking back, I think it was these days that cemented the importance of tears for me. It’s always found a way into my poetry. For me, I realized that without the bitter tears, I probably wouldn’t have appreciated the sweet ones.

Since those days I’ve realized something about God’s promise and me. When those hit come and drop me to my knees, there’s a reason. First, he wants to remind me to call on him, to lean on him. Second, he rarely answers with the loud roar we seem to expect. Instead, he answers with a soft whisper, sometimes carried on a gentle breeze, other times through a simple gesture from a friend.

Our problem is that we’re so busy looking for the roar, we completely miss the whisper. Then we turn to him and blame. How much easier would it be if we just asked for his help instead of demanding it? More than that, how often have we been the mean, catty person? How often do our words have barbs, designed to cut and hurt someone while we excuse our own behavior because of some slight (real or imagined) that they’ve committed against you? How do we know that these people haven’t been sent there to teach us lessons in kindness or patience or tolerance? Those kinds of responses are easy. Taking the high road when you have no reason to? That’s hard, but you never know when your simple kindness may change someone’s life.

Women Helping Women–I’m Wowed!

There is no question that things have been absolutely crazed in my personal life lately. I found a side job I didn’t even know I was looking for…and that’s exciting. But even better? One of the coolest people I have the privilege to follow on Twitter and Facebook, Ande Lyons, reached out to me.

Ande runs this amazing site for women called Bring Back Desire. The focus of her website is “sharing resources with women who want more intimacy, passion, sensual pleasure and sexual excitement”. I think that’s an amazing cause. I’ve been thrilled when she’s chosen to comment on one of my posts. I really do admire her work and what it means to women.

Well, late Sunday evening I saw an email from her in my mailbox. She really enjoyed my blog post about the differences between Sex and Making Love from a few days ago. She has asked me if I’d be willing to repurpose it a little bit so she can post it as an article on her website. How cool is that? Of course I told her I’d be thrilled to do so. I mean, when someone you look up to and admire for their contributions like that comes to you…WOW!

Anyway, I have been a bad blog buddy lately, between finishing my project, starting a new business and now this…but I’ll be back in a few days. I promise! I love you guys too much to stay away. You’re all awesome!

Back From The Abyss

As many of you know, I blog daily. It’s become a part of my routine. I find that blogging helps to open my mind to different thoughts and ideas along with helping to sharpen my writing abilities. The fact that I’ve met some awesome people along the way has been this awesome bonus. I’ve loved the blogging community I’ve found here on WordPress, because that’s exactly what it is! A community. It’s a place where you can pretty much say anything and people will be there to share their experiences, their knowledge…give feedback. I’ve come to depend on it.

So on Tuesday, I was calmly going along my merry way…creating a post about something admirable that a celebrity did (It’s the post right before this one). The thing is…when I hit Publish, something strange happened! I received this warning telling me to check my dashboard because my blog had been suspended…either because they suspected that yours truly was a Spam-bot (Austin–I promise, I’m not…nor am I intending to start a robot apocalypse!) trying to peddle all sorts of stuff or I’d been being a naughty girl and got TOS’ed. Needless to say…I kind of freaked.

So I called my best friend and he suggested we have  a Kiki! What’s a Kiki? I’m so glad you asked!

Hahahaha! Just kidding. Actually, I find the song to be quite fun…I know…I’m disturbed. Not exactly news for all of you…LOL.

I did freak a bit…because I’d put a lot of work into my blog and I didn’t want to lose it. I got in touch with WordPress immediately. I didn’t get an answer for a while….not even a form letter to say they’d received my concern/complaint. You guys were great, though. Some of you contacted me on Twitter, others by email..just to make sure everything was okay. It felt nice to know that people noticed because though we comment on each other’s blogs…we have never “really” met. The thought of losing all my work…or having to start over with my blog was very disheartening, but you guys reassured me to hang in there. For that I dedicate this one to you guys…

Then, today…I got the email. It had all been one HUGE mistake…and not by me. Apparently I’d hit WordPress’s spam protection. After carefully looking over my blog they realized that I was not a robot…or a zombie (thank you Rob…now you and zombies are eternally intertwined in my warped mind).

In the meantime…I’m back in the driver seat…. And pretty soon I’ll be back in the swing of thinks…kinda like…

Syndey, I’m so glad you messaged me and told me that it took them 4 days to get your blog reactivated. You calmed my nerves and let me just try to relax. (I don’t do hurry up and wait very well)

Now, I’m filled with GLEE…haha…and able to laugh about the whole thing. In the meantime, I’m feeling a bit goofy… (No, shit…right?)


Awkward Emergencies And Other Hilarious Moments

Truth truly IS stranger than fiction.

There is one awesome side benefit to having been so close to the medically related world most of your life. Most of you may think it’s the free medical advice while others may think it’s the info you soak up along the way. The former is definitely a good thing. The latter…eh…let’s just say that then you know enough to become a hypochondriac with strong webmd skills. For me, though, the best part are the very interesting stories that you get to hear…and the images that fire the imagination.

When I was in eigth grade I remember tittering with laughter in one of my girl friend’s rooms as we talked about the sheer humiliation of two of her classmates. These two youngsters had snuck to the girl’s house during lunch period that day to make out. Well, they both had braces. Yes. You guessed it! Their braces locked together. Fortunately they had the same orthodontist and it was a small town. The humiliating part? They had to walk to the orthodontist’s office locked at the mouth, then their parents had to be called.

When I wound up in braces myself, I had flashback moments to this story. I was very reluctant to date any guy who was also wearing braces for fear of this situation happening to me. As I got more experienced I realized…if you’re a decent kisser and know what you’re doing…this isn’t really an issue. The problem becomes when you get more sexually active. For example…an EMT friend of mine responded to an emergency call. As he and the rest of the guys walked in, they weren’t sure exactly what was going to greet them. Sitting on the couch was a pretty young woman in her early twenties…with her boyfriend attached, quite literally, to her nipple. The boyfriend in question was not trying to nurse on this young woman…but he wore braces. When he went to suck on her nipples, apparently some how, some way the skin from her breasts became caught in his braces. As he tried to pull away, she howled in agony, advising him to keep still. As they told the story to the paramedics/EMT’s, the guys tried very stoically to maintain professionalism. The young lady proceeded to tell them that she freaked out. She’d considered trying to drive them in, but realized that as he was attached to her left breast there wasn’t really a way to get him into the car and to the ER. Even if she could, she couldn’t get her arm both around his head and on the steering wheel in a way that would allow her control of the car. Oh, the images THAT one evoked.

But wait! It gets better! I used to work in the ER sometimes, but mostly upstairs in admissions. When I’d work evenings, I’d lock up the admissions office, then bring all the pertinent information I had to the ER registration people. One night, as I dropped my info off and was getting ready to head out the door, one of the guys pulled me aside to tell me what I’d missed. It was around the holidays, so a lot of the college kids were back in town. Apparently, a cute little brunette in her 20’s had come in a few minutes before I arrived. When she walked up to the registration desk, my friend invited her to sit down. She declined, preferring to stand. She moved around quite a bit & paced. Her face was flushed. He took down her name and address, got her emergency contact, then asked her our standard question.

Registration employee: What seems to be the problem today?
College girl: (blushing profusely) Do I have to say?
Registration employee: Well, I have to write down what’s wrong so that they know what they’re seeing you for.
College girl: (Mumbles)
Registration employee: I’m sorry, what did you say? I didn’t quite understand you.
College girl: Ummm…(leans in close and whispers softly) I lost my vibrator.
Registration employee: Oh. OH! Ok. And do you have insurance?
College girl: (realizing her parents will get the ER visit bill) Um, can I pay for it myself? And can I give you a different address to send the bill to?
Registration employee: Sure.

As he told me the story, all I could think of was…no wonder she declined to sit. Can you imagine what her drive into the hospital was like? Guess she was missing her boyfriend!

Then there was the day that my mom came home from work back when I was still in high school. She got off at 11 pm and also did time in the ER. Apparently when her relief person came in the lady was disgusted. She was a larger German woman with four children. Her hands were waving dramatically as she muttered under her breath. That convo?

Mom: Karen, what’s wrong?
Karen: There are some really sick people out there Jos’!
Mom: What happened?
Karen: As I was walking in there was a man laying face down on a guerney.
Mom: Oh, dear. I hope he’s okay.
Karen: He was fine! He was an idiot!
Mom: What makes you say that?
Karen: He’s here because he got a carrot. Stuck up his butt! (hand motions pointing to the derriere) The carrot broke! Now he’s here.
Mom: Oh dear!

But wait! There’s more! I got promoted from my registration job to “bed control”. This meant that when I was on shift in the evenings, I became the manager on duty. It also meant that every time a person got admitted into the hospital I got called. I also got called with updates from the emergency room when someone would go on lunch, filling me in on potential admissions or situations. So here’s a call I took one evening.

Me: Hey, Tam, what’s up?
Tammy: You’re not going to believe this one.
Me: I don’t know. We both know I’ve seen some pretty interesting things over the years.
Tammy: Um, this was interesting even for me.
Me: Soo? What is it?
Tammy: There’s a guy in the back right now because his wife shoved a real thermometer up his urethra.
Me: What? Seriously? A MERCURY thermometer?
Tammy: Yup!
Me: That’s poisonous. Does she have any idea how dangerous it is?
Lady walks up to Tammy’s desk: (embarrassed) You know, I’m his wife. I find it very rude and unprofessional of you to be discussing my husband this way.
Tammy: Hang on, Kitt. (Puts the phone down and turns to the woman) Ma’am. I’m sorry that you’re embarrassed about what is going on with your husband, but it is my job to update my supervisor on potential admissions before I go to lunch which is exactly what I’m doing. (Turns away, dismissing the woman) You still there?
Me: Yup! Did the lady walk away?
Tammy: Yeah, she finally stomped off. Hey! She shouldn’t do stuff like that if she doesn’t want people to hear about it.
Me: LOL! I think this is worse than the call I got from the Operating Room a few minutes ago. They needed a bed for a guy who had a penile fracture.
Tammy: I wonder if they put it in a cast? And if this thermometer breaks, who knows! (laughing) This guy may have a fracture, too.
Me: I was wondering the same thing!

Had enough yet? How about one last one? Tammy seemed a magnet for these strange situations, because it was she and I working in the ER together for the last one. She got called into a room to register an elderly woman. She was sweet and adorable and looked like everyone’s grandma. Tammy told me about this conversation when she got back from the room…she couldn’t keep a straight face.

Tammy: Hi there, ma’am! How are you today?
Grandma lady: Hi dear! I’m doing okay.
Tammy: Do you have your drivers license and insurance card so I can get started on your registration?
Grandma lady: Sure! (hands the info over)
Tammy: So what brings you in today?
Grandma lady: I have some greenery growing…Down there!
Tammy: What?
Grandma lady: I appear to have some sort of shrubbery growing…DOWN THERE! (pointing toward her lady parts)
Tammy: Shrubbery?
Grandma lady: Yes dear. I felt something strange down there, so I took a mirror and I looked. There is greenery growing…down there!
Tammy: Um, ok. Thank you ma’am.

She walked back to me, told me the story and asked, “What in the heck do I put the diagnosis section on something like that?”

“Foreign body in vaginal area?” I guessed.

What had actually happened? That’s what you’re wondering, right? Well, so did we, so we asked. Apparently the woman’s uterus had been prolapsing. One of her friends had just had the surgery done, but she felt she was too busy to have the surgery after the doctor had told her what was wrong. To temporarily “fix” the problem she’d shoved a potato up there. What do we know about potatoes? What is the ideal environment for them to grow in? Warm, dark, wet areas you say? Imagine that! You see, dementia had begun to set in for this poor woman…and she’d forgotten that she’d shoved that potato up there. Wow!

So what about you guys? What are some of the strangest “wound up in the hospital” stories you’ve heard? Have you been one of those strange stories? C’mon…share, share! It’s all fun and games until a potato starts growing…;-)