Thursday, July 24, 2008

Go meat!

Have you seen the Hillshire Farms commercial? With the guys who are grilling in their backyards and singing about meat?

If not, it's right here. I love it. Such passion!

Last Thursday night I nearly broke out in meat-inspired song. We had dinner at Fogo de Chao with our friends Craig and Andrea, and it was awesome.

For one thing, we were out with really good friends we never get to see. Craig and Nate are friends from high school. Andrea and I met while working in the dress department at Bloomingdale's. At that time, Andrea's friend Ann was dating Josh, who knew Craig (and therefore Nate). Ann and Josh introduced Andrea to Craig. They started dating. Craig and Andrea introduced me to Nate. We started dating. Ann and Josh broke up. I introduced Josh to my friend Joanna. They started dating.

Craig and Andrea got married. Josh and Joanna got married (and had a baby). Nate and I got married.

Tell me this was not meant to be!

(As for Ann...she's good. She got married, too. I wasn't trying to leave her happy ending out, but their relationship does not fit into my awesome friends setting each other up and marrying friends story.)

Anyway, we love Craig and Andrea. Though we are mad at them for moving to Philadelphia four years ago, and can't wait until they move back (the timing of which varies greatly depending on who you ask).

But, back to the meat.

Andrea first told me about Fogo de Chao a few years ago, after she and Craig went to the one in Philly. So when I heard they were coming into town, we decided to go. When we picked them up Thursday night, Craig made sure to go over the rules of eating at FdC:

1) There is an amazing salad bar. You are going to want to eat a lot of it. Don't.

2) There are amazing sides. They keeping refilling them. You're going to want to eat them. Don't.

In summary: save yourself for the meat. And for once, I actually heeded the advice of someone telling me to eat less food. While the salad bar was quite impressive, I took tiny portions of everything and didn't even fill up my plate. I ate one bite of each side (polenta, plantains, little biscuits and mashed potatoes). And then I flipped my little card from red to green, and the meat parade began.

One after another, the little gaucho men stopped by with their offerings. We had various preparations of lamb, sausage, pork, chicken and beef. It was all delicious, but the bacon-wrapped filet and garlic beef were our favorites. (Dear Fogo de Chao: please create a bacon-wrapped garlic filet. Okay? Thanks!) After a few rounds (there were a couple red card breaks in there...I thought my stomach was going to explode), we all gave up. Except Nate. He went another round — two more bacon-wrapped filets. The guy's got stamina!

We finished the night off with dessert coffees. We physically could not have stuffed another piece of food in our stomachs. And, unlike the meat, dessert isn't served on a stick by a man in funny pants. So, really...why bother?

In fact, I may start requiring Nate to serve dinner in a gaucho outfit.

He'd look good, don't you think?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Flower update.

I can't believe how much our flowers have grown in one month!

Something to see: Batman.

Nate and I went to see The Dark Knight with Bud and Carrie last night. I strongly suggest you see this movie for two reasons (in no particular order):

1) It's really, really good.


Monday, July 21, 2008


It's official: we're out of the wedding phase and into the baby phase.

Everyone we know has a kid. Or is having a kid. Or is about to have another kid.

I buy so many baby gifts these days, I've started receiving frequent customer coupons from Gymboree and mailings from Pottery Barn Kids. I've given up on picking out just the right card for everyone — instead I stock up on "You're Expecting!" and "Congratulations on Your Bundle of Joy!" cards every time I go to Target. We go through them pretty quickly.

I believe we may be experiencing some sort of baby boom.

I used to be pretty baby-phobic. The nickname "Baby Hater" may have come up a time or two with my college friends (until I got crabby about it and told them to shut up, which they kindly did). I was never a baby hater...I just didn't want to trade in my fun, grown-up life for chaos and crying. And I didn't really understand why any of my friends would want to, either. But they wanted to, and they did, and things were tough for a while, but we made it through. It took a few years, but now I'm all - Ooh, babies are cute! I love babies! Of course your baby can come on vacation with us!*

Talk about a transformation. But I think Mattie — who dribbles water all over the house, swallows my underwear** and then barfs it up, chews on my shoes, gets hair all over our couches, and wakes us up at 5am every morning — has prepared me for chaos.

I sleep with a HOOF in my bed, for pete's sake.

Even though almost everyone we know has kids now, we rarely get to see them. But this weekend was full of babies. Saturday night we had dinner with our good friends Scott and Brenna Vuong, Eric and Megan Nelson, and Jim and Jessica Healy. The Healys don't have kids yet, but the Vuongs have Jaxon, who is 7.5 months old, and the Nelsons have Owen, who is 6 weeks old. It was the first time we'd seen Owen (and we hadn't seen Jaxon since he was teeny tiny), so it was a lot of fun to cuddle with them both. Jaxon is so laid back — he was happy no matter who held him. And Owen was such a sweetheart. He hardly fussed at all, and slept through most of the evening. It was a perfect night with great friends and really good food (Scott made an unbelievable meal. Everyone should have an Asian friend who cooks for them.).

Yesterday afternoon I spent a few hours at Josh and Joanna Wing's house, visiting their nearly five month old daughter, Allie. Joanna warned me that she's shy around strangers, but Allie and I were giggling and playing within minutes. She's incredibly cute, and I could have held her all night. (Literally. Josh and Jo offered her to me for the week. I think they're tired.)

So, yes. I'm pretty sure we've entered a new phase. While we've only been to one wedding this year, there have been a lot of babies. And there are more to come, as quite a few friends are pregnant — a couple of them with their second baby. And to that I say: bring 'em on. I think I've got enough cards for everyone. And if not, Target's across the street.

*Many thanks to my dear friends, who stuck with me during the rough patch. And who produced kids cute enough to change my mind about the whole baby thing.

**I really hope our future child won't swallow my underwear, but if he/she does...well, I think I can handle it.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Bonne fete de la Bastille!

Alexiane is our summer marketing intern. She came to Larsen from France through a strange trail of business connections and a lot of unreadable (on my part) paperwork. The decision to host Alexiane was very sudden, and we had no idea what to expect. Luckily, she's smart and sweet and a great addition to our marketing team.

Due to a slight language barrier, the past month has been a learning experience for all of us. But more so for my boss, Heather, who just found out the French greeting she's shared with Alexiane each morning has been anything but accurate.

According to Alexiane: "You cannot say that. It means nothing! I did not want to tell you."

She is so funny. I just adore her.

Because today is Bastille Day (also known as Fete Nationale or Quatorze Julliet, according to the ever-reliable wikipedia), we decided to honor Alexiane's heritage with an authentic French breakfast. We had croissants and baguette slices with French jam, hot chocolate, coffee and orange juice. Alexiane said this is a traditional weekend breakfast — during the week the French eat "cereal or nothing," because a breakfast like the one we had today requires an early morning trip to the bakery. (I guess they don't have Trader Joe's frozen croissants in France.)

To add to the "authenticity" of our event, Alexiane wore a little scarf tied around her neck, Heather wore a bright red beret and a red, white and blue medal around her neck, and I wore a black beret Alexiane brought for me. (Unfortunately the only photo of me in the beret was terrifying, and therefore not included below.) We had Edith Piaf playing on the stereo, French flags hanging around the room, and a silent video of people doing the can-can on the large computer screen.

It was quite festive, and very entertaining.

Now for the only word of French (I think) I know:

Au Revoir!

A quick trip to IL

I've been traveling back and forth to Joliet with some regularity this summer. It's a three-week pattern: three weeks ago I was there to help my sister with wedding plans; this past weekend I was there for a friend's wedding and my mom's birthday; and three weeks from now I will be there for my sister's wedding showers and bachelorette party. I've been lucky enough to get some time off work for all of these trips, but this past weekend was the quickest yet: we got in at 8pm on Friday, and left at 11am Sunday.

Thankfully, Nate drove almost the entire trip. I slept a lot, and starting reading a very weird book. (I am usually a big fan of the very weird book. But I'm not so sure about this one.)

Even though it was a quick weekend, we accomplished quite a bit. Here are the highlights:

Nate beat the socks off my dad at golf on Saturday morning. Evidently, he has become legendary in Joliet golf circles. Everyone is scared to play with him the day of Jill and Kyle's wedding. My brother went and bought clubs so he could practice, and Kyle is taking lessons in preparation of the big day. And you know what? They should be nervous. Nate shot a 73 on Saturday. He's a good golfer.

While my dad and Nate were golfing, my mom and I went shopping. I got four bowls and a set of salt/pepper shakers that match a pitcher and cream/sugar set in my kitchen. Very cute and kind of vintage-y. I also got two little red star-shaped candy dishes by my favorite brand, tag. Whenever I am drawn to something — cute dishtowels, plates, napkins, table runners — it's always tag. The woman at the store told me all their fall tag stuff would be in by the time I'm back in three weeks. Darn her. I can't say no to it. Just check my china cabinet and kitchen drawers for proof. I probably keep them in business.

Saturday night, Nate and I went to my friend Chrissy's wedding. She looked beautiful and it was great to see her, but we didn't know anyone else. I thought there might be a few other people from high school, but I thought wrong. Our self-proclaimed "reject table" included us, the two girls who did the flowers, Chrissy's mom's coworker, and her parents' extremely wacky neighbors. What a motley crew.

For dinner we had what my mom calls "Joliet wedding food" — mostaccioli, roast beef, green beans, potatoes, kielbasa and sauerkraut. Seriously, that's what you get at a Joliet wedding. Every time. It's usually buffet-style, but this was passed family-style. Nate and I probably disappointed our wedding guests by serving chicken and having it plated.

Sunday we went out to breakfast with my parents and Jill and Kyle to celebrate my mom's birthday. She seemed happy with her gift — The 1949 Information Please Almanac — which we found at an antique store in Hayward. My dad also liked his belated birthday present, The Backyard Bird Feeder's Bible. We are trying to encourage both of their hobbies: my mom loves information, and my dad loves birds. For example: Did you know the Star Spangled Banner has four stanzas, though we only sing one? Did you know that setting a tin can of bacon grease in your backyard will attract crows?

We didn't. But we do now!

It was a really fun trip, but it was a lot of driving for one weekend. We were exhausted by the time we got home.

Can't wait to do it again in three weeks!

Monday, July 7, 2008

A very full Fourth.

This past weekend I celebrated our nation's independence the only way I know how: by eating way too much.

I also did some other fun stuff, but primarily ate my way through the weekend. I'm sure I wasn't the only overeating is the American way. Liberty, justice and ridiculously high caloric intakes for all!

The weekend got off to a great start Thursday night when Nate and I met up with our friends Bud and Carrie for dinner and a movie. But not just any dinner. A really, really good dinner.

In fact, I feel quite happy just thinking about it.

We ate at Sea Salt Eatery, a seafood restaurant in Minnehaha Park. This is not a fancy restaurant. It's in a public park pavilion. But it's soooo good.

Yes, you have to wait in line for about 50 minutes to order. Yes, once you order you have to wait another 50 minutes for food. No, there aren't enough chairs for everyone. And, yes (a thousand times yes!), it's totally worth the hassle.

I had the shrimp po' boy, Nate had the cajun catfish po' boy, we split two tilapia tacos and shared 1/2 dozen oysters with Bud and Carrie. It was a feast. I also had two beers, which I tried to finish while running through the park after dinner. We thought we were going to be late for the movie. Incidentally, we were 30 minutes early.

(By the way, the movie — WALL•E — was really good. And kind of sad. I have a strange emotional attachment to animated characters. Especially when they are batting big, innocent eyes.)

Then, after snacking my way through a coworker's party Friday afternoon, Nate and I met our friends Ben and Nikki for fireworks and a dessert picnic. I don't know who's bright idea that was (possibly mine), but we each brought dessert to share. The four of us polished off half a pound cake with whipped cream and berries, half a blueberry pie, half a box of glazed donuts, and half a bottle of cheap, crappy wine. Let's see: half + half + half + half = two. And two divided by four is half. So, really, we each only had half a dessert.

I am a math genius.

Saturday was (a little) less obscene: my friend Barbara and I met for a late lunch at the new Salut on Grand Ave. I had an omelette and a blackberry mojito. We shopped those calories off pretty quickly, so we ended our day with cheesecake at Cafe Latte.

Sunday I ran errands all day, so I had a Diet Coke and Chicken McNuggets for lunch. In an effort to be healthy, I passed on the french fries. Of course later that night I had a mountain of tater tots with dinner. But you know - I could have had all of that PLUS fries. It's all about making good decisions.

Unsurprisingly, I might not fit into my pants this week.

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