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A recipe for a lazy Sunday

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10/30/2014

A recipe for a lazy Sunday photo 1

Hubs and I are both huge fans of breakfast.  In fact, lazy Sundays are some of my favorite days.

On a rare occasion, the munchkin sleeps over at her grandparents’ house and hubs and I have our lazy Sunday mornings all to ourselves.

I relish those Sundays that we get to sneak away for breakfast together at one of our many local eateries.  I sip on my cream-loaded coffee while hubs asks the waiter about every single item on the menu and then decides he still needs a few more minutes.

It’s the kind of morning where I can relax, chat with hubby about all the latest gossip and not worry that I will have a crayon torpedoed at my head by the giggling munchkin.

When it finally comes to ordering, hubs is usually teetering between a skillet of some sort or the classic lox and bagel combination.

Typically the skillet wins and as he mops up the list bit of egg yolk with his toast he says, “You know what would be good with this?  Lox.  Lox would have been good.”

So on a Sunday that was not so lazy for me, after I spent the better part of the morning chasing after munchkin and arguing over what she is having for breakfast she had finally exhausted herself and was ready for her first nap.

Typically this is the time that I get to sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee in peace.  But then hubs woke up (he is late to rise) and he said he was hungry…and he wanted me to surprise him.

In no mood whatsoever for creativity, I glanced through my end-of-the-week almost empty fridge and sighed.  What’s a girl to do?

I stared at some leftover lox, a whole wheat English muffin, some veggies and 2 eggs.

No skillets were to be had today.  None at all.  We had better things to create.

Since hubs always wanted his eggs with his lox…I figured why not give it to him!

The smoky and salty salmon I had leftover was going to be perfect against a creamy egg.  And add it all on a whole wheat English muffin, I say we have some pretty tantalizing eats!  Not to mention clean eats!

And what better way to eat a salmon and egg sandwich then with the most delicate egg of all: the poached egg.

  

Smoked Salmon Eggwich

Ingredients

2 square foot sized pieces of saran wrap 
2 ramekins
a few drizzles of olive oil
2 whole eggs
1 whole wheat English muffin cut in half and toasted
4 oz of smoked salmon
2-4 large slices of beefsteak or heirloom tomatoes
a few rings of red onion slices
half an avocado, sliced
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp of vinegar

Instructions

1. First you need 2 foot size square pieces of saran wrap and 2 ramekins.

2. Place the saran wrap into the ramekins and dribble a bit of olive oil into it.

3. In the meantime, add 2 tbsp of vinegar to a pot of water with about 4 inches of water in it. Bring it up to a gentle simmer over medium heat.

4. Crack one egg into each ramekin. Now you see why we use the olive oil? It is going to help the egg from sticking. Feel free to sprinkle some salt and pepper on it now, or you can do so after. Up to you.

5. Gather all four corners of the saran wrap and tie it. You are creating little egg purses :)

A recipe for a lazy Sunday photo 2 A recipe for a lazy Sunday photo 3

6. Once your water is simmering. Drop in your little purses of eggs into the water and let them cook for 3-4 minutes. I like mine a little tighter so I let them cook the whole 4 minutes.

A recipe for a lazy Sunday photo 5

7. While those puppies are boiling away...toast your English muffin (I prefer the 100 calorie whole wheat ones). Slice up a nice juicy tomato. A few rings of red onion and just a few slices of avocado will do ya'. And you will need about 2 pieces of smoked salmon per piece of twist, so about 4 oz.

8. Remove the egg from the water with a slotted spoon and place it on a cutting board. Cut the saran open by snipping the top off.

9. Start making your sandwich by first placing the smoked salmon on the toasty bread, followed by your avocado slices, tomato slices and onion rings.

10. Slowly, place your poached egg on top and sprinkle with salt and pepper if you have not yet done so.

11. And let your eager hungry hubby break the yolk :) Liquid sunshine on a plate.

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The Stories We Tell

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10/29/2014

Ashley Kolpak photo

There’s something about the stories we share – from person to person, taking part in one of the world’s oldest traditions. A few weeks ago, I was reminded of the power stories have to captivate, to illuminate. What am I going on about? Let me start at the beginning.

Recently, I’ve constantly been hearing that the “live lit” scene is exploding in Chicago. I’ve been instructed more than once to, “Go to The Paper Machete at Green Mill!” My curiosity regarding the scene was piqued. Enter an invite from my trusty Oy!Chicago editors to check out a live lit/storytelling event entitled “Guts and Glory.” I didn’t know what to expect. A little inspiration, perhaps?

So on a Wednesday night I walked over to Schuba’s. As I enter it buzzes with a quiet energy. The dim, twinkly lights seem to say, “Fall is here, might as well partake in an amber-hued ambience.” I climb the stairs and take a seat. Over the next hour or so, the audience is treated to a treasure trove of stories running the gamut from humorous, every-day observations to deeply personal, wrenching tales with a little bit of everything in between.

The five or six Chicagoans (including Chicago transplants) sharing their stories light up the room with wit, live-wire energy, and a sense of thriving in the moment. Everything about it feels analog and present, a trip to a slightly different time. Though some participants read from their iPads, the gestures and intonation of each performance charm and entice the audience in the manner of  a live theater show. The event is a raw, unaffected display of heart, guts and glory (pardon the pun). I feel 16 again, sitting in playwriting class and taking in the creations of my fellow students. (And I mean that in the best way!) In the manner all possibilities can be explored, every idea can be expounded upon, every story is a jumping off point for thousands more. It’s that one-of-a-kind feeling live theater bestows on its audience.

Witnessing storytellers relay their creations in real-time, complete with wildly emotive facial expressions is something special. I quickly grew enamored of this “live lit” thing. As a spectator, my little writer/actress mind shook awake. What would I write? As the last reader takes the stage, she shares a story so funny, poignant, irreverent centered on one of the most universal topics around: a mother/daughter relationship. She commands the stage as she flips through the pages of her book and reads aloud. After the evening finished, I pondered quietly. How to create an experience, a story so multi-faceted, so real, so warm, so engaging? I’ll just have to learn by attending more live lit events.

In fact, Oy!Chicago is hosting a live lit event called “Oy! Let Me Tell You …” on Nov. 19. You should come! It’s at 7 p.m. at Matilda (3101 N. Sheffield Ave.) and I’m contemplating tossing my hat in the ring. What will be the story I tell? Will it be full of lively, well-refined pizzazz? A touch of sassy chutzpah? Will anyone learn anything from it? Who knows? I’m looking forward to putting pen to paper, and perhaps getting up in front of a live audience.

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It’s Not Too Late

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10/28/2014

It’s Not Too Late photo

I know I’m late. I’m always late. (Heck – this blog post is late.) The High Holiday blogs have long since been published and Passover matzah but a dry and pasty memory, but and still, as someone who’s always late I am OK with my writing being slightly less in the news of the moment. (And I have no interest/ability in tackling the Ebola “pandemic.”)

So indulge me for a minute, as we go back in time, (literally/figuratively) to the High Holidays …

My parents were coming over for dinner to break the fast. During the High Holidays, my parents were (as usual) absent from temple services. The kids were angling (as usual) for future exemptions because, (insert annoyingly whiney voices) “Grandma and Grandpa don’t go! We never learn anything! Wah!” (Not factoring in of course the other grandmother, past president of the temple etc. etc.)

My kids have asked me several times why my parents didn’t attend services and they were very unsatisfied by my repeated answer of:

“Papa thought about being a rabbi, but became a psychologist instead, and Grandma felt she got a lot of mixed messages about Judaism when she was as a little girl, so she does it in her own way. They just don’t go to temple.”

I have to say as unsatisfied as they were with my explanation, I was kind of unsatisfied with it myself. But so many years had gone by; it seemed kind of late for me to bring up the topic. So, in turn, I decided to empower the kids and throw the Grandparents to the wolves. I mean, the big scary Book was already written and closed for the season; if I was in trouble with G-d, it was too late anyway.

I prompted the kids after we had all noshed a little.

“So? Don’t you have a question for Grandma and Papa?” I prodded. “Ask them.”

My parents perked up and braced themselves simultaneously. My kids are rarely focused enough to ask their grandparents questions (that are not horrendously inappropriate) and/or attentively listen to the answers. My second oldest (worst offender of inappropriate everything) surprised me when he simply asked, “How come you guys never come to services? Do you believe in G-d? I’m not sure.”

He then sat quietly and patiently for an answer. The siblings followed suit. It was unusual. They seemed serious about listening. The vibe in the air changed. Things got serious.

My dad looked at the eight pairs of young eyes staring expectantly at him and he took a deep breath. He then began a story – his story - about being young and hearing, seeing, and experiencing horrible things and wondering, “where was G-d?” He remembered asking two rabbis at his mother’s Shiva why G-d had taken his mother – who was so good and so kind – away from him? The rabbis, my dad said, gave the worst answer he could have possibly imagined. They simply both answered, “We don't know.”

In the process of finding his own way of believing and understanding the world and life, he found his way back to believing in G-d. He found that G-d was just a beginning and how humans lived their lives and made decisions – to be good, to be bad, to heal, to harm – were just that – human decisions in a world that G-d had made and given. He ended by saying that although he doesn’t attend services, he is still Jewish and he still believes in G-d.

It was very quiet. Then my middle guy said, “So really, G-d is a teacher – not a king.”

My dad teared up (hell, so did I) at my kid’s profound summary of a very difficult concept.

“Yes. A teacher,” my dad responded. “G-d is a teacher. Not a king.”

This may not bode well for next High Holidays (“Papa believes in G-d but doesn’t go to services!”) but I am so glad the conversation happened. It took a long time to happen and it almost never happened because so much time had passed. But an incredible thing came to fruition: an experience was passed, a perspective was shared and something was learned. It’s never, ever too late.

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What Would You Do If You Could Not Fail?

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10/27/2014

What Would You Do If You Could Not Fail? photo

I was sitting in my career coach’s office, constantly adjusting from side to side. If I stopped shifting for even just a moment, my right foot began to furiously tap on the floor. I couldn’t make up my mind as to where I wanted my hands to go: in my lap, on the arm rest, on my chin. I kept switching positions without finding comfort in any of them.

My coach, Rita, was looking directly at me, searching for my eyes in order to make contact. My eyes were drifting up and to the left, focusing on the tiny window in the far corner of the room. We were at a pivotal point in the conversation about what my next career move might be. We had laid out all the facts, hashed out the past and speculated about the future.

“I just don’t know if this is the right decision,” I said. I was contemplating a plan to leave my job and go on to work completely on my own as a life coach.

Her response was, “What would you do if you could not fail? If you had more courage and less fear, what would be your next action?”

My foot stopped tapping. My hands rested gently on the arms of the chair. I slowly turned my head toward my coach and answered that I would quit my job in order to become an independent coach.

This was a conversation that took place over seven years ago. Today, I still find those two simple questions to be the most important questions a coach has ever asked me. In that moment, I was able to imagine there was no possibility of failure, which meant there was only the possibility of success. From there I saw a clear vision for my future. I saw the life I wanted, and if I was only courageous enough to take the first step, I believed I could achieve it.

I have probably asked this question at one point or another to every client that I have ever coached. For them, as it did for me, it always seemed to eliminate all the questions and revealed the answers. When the fear that leads to false expectations is removed, all that remains is the love that leads to truth.

To learn more about living a life with more courage and less fear, visit www.100reasonstowin.com or e-mail andy@100reasonstowin.com.  

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Are You Sitting Down?

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10/24/2014

Are You Sitting Down? photo 1

My new standing desk. By the way, do you like my re-designed bulletin board?

I’ve got some news. Are you sitting down?

Well, the news is that I’m not sitting down. I’m standing up!

For months now, I’ve been reading about the negative effects of what they call “sitting disease.” According to the experts, “sitting is the new smoking,” and the hours we spend each day are cutting our lives short. According to the Mayo Clinic, ‘If Americans would cut their sitting time in half, their life expectancy would increase by roughly two years, by reducing sitting to less than 3 hours a day.”

So a few weeks ago, I decided to buy myself a standing desk to use at work. After researching several options, including some pricey treadmill desks, I bought a Varidesk Pro. It’s an adjustable desk that sits on top of my current desk and raises and lowers my entire computer setup — both of my monitors, my keyboard, my mouse, and even my business cards, Post-It Notes, and Chapstick. When I want to stand, I pull the desk up. When it’s time to sit, I push it down. Each movement takes about two seconds.

I also bought myself an anti-fatigue mat to keep my footsies from aching too much.

The Varidesk comes with an app that pops up on my screen to tell me when to sit and when to stand. (Though, now that I think about it, it would be cool if it came with a Jewish version of the app that said “Please rise” or “You may be seated” in the voice of my childhood rabbi.) The experts say that sitting all day is not good for you, but standing all day isn’t either, so the combination of the two is the ideal. I set my app to tell me to stand for 30 minutes and sit for 30 minutes.

Are You Sitting Down? photo 2 Are You Sitting Down? photo 3

Left: My standing desk in the standing position. Pretty meta to see the picture of me composing this blog entry, right? (Excuse my mess of wires; I’m working on it.) Right: The adjustable desk in the sitting position.

How’s it working out? I love it. Here are some of my favorite things about it:

1. Stepping. While I’m standing, if I’m on the phone or responding to e-mails, I might even get a few extra steps on my Fitbit. I can talk and walk; why not type and walk? It works great.

2. Better posture. I’m not including a picture of the way I sit at my desk in this post because, honestly, it’s embarrassing. I’m a bit of a sloucher, especially when I’m sitting; so when I’m standing, my back feels much more natural and comfortable. Sorry, Notre Dame, you won’t be gaining any hunchbacks from this girl.
 

3. More alert. You know the post-lunch “Why-can’t-we-be-like-Europe-and-have-afternoon-siestas” feeling? I won’t say that I’ve completely lost that feeling, but it has certainly improved. If I’m feeling tired, I’ll stand up, walk a little, and get back into my groove.

4. Burning calories. My Varidesk app, in addition to telling me when to stand and sit, keeps an estimate of how many calories I’ve burned on a daily basis due to standing. I’m not sure how accurate this actually is, but the app tells me I burn around 500 calories per day from standing. I don’t know about you, but that sounds to me like an extra couple of French macarons.

5. Helping others. My job often requires other people to come and look at my computer to edit a flyer or see something on our website. When I show them the computer in the standing position, I feel like I’m doing a small good deed by giving my coworkers a brief respite from their sitting. And hey, it’s fun!

6. It’s a conversation starter. I love icebreakers, and this is certainly a big one.

Alright, you’ve made it to the end of this post — I think it’s time to reward yourself by standing up.

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Cue the Tomato Soup

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10/22/2014

Cue the Tomato Soup photo

I have an incredibly depressing confession to make: I’ve started preparing myself for winter. I can’t even believe I just typed that sentence, but it’s true.

Last winter was a doozy and the know-it-alls that put together the Farmer’s Almanac are saying that this year will be just as delightful. I don’t want to be caught by surprise this time around, so I’ve been forcing myself to prepare for the torture that is to come.

I recently made a trip down to my basement storage unit and visited my winter coat. There she was in her little plastic storage box waiting for me. I could have sworn that I saw her giggle as I pulled her out of her summer home and reluctantly put her back in my closet.

It sounds awful, doesn’t it? It gets worse. Once my coat was back I went into winter preparation overdrive. I put away my shorts, packed up my flip-flops and retired my straw hat.

All of that depression inspired me to try thinking positively about this change of seasons. I know we’re not there yet, but why not start trying to have something to look forward to this winter?

I’m food obsessed, so naturally I turned to my kitchen for sunnier thoughts. You know what I realized? I miss grilled cheese and tomato soup. But not just any old tomato soup, I miss Ina Garten’s fancy Pappa Al Pomodoro. What could be more comforting than a tomato soup recipe that has bread in it? Not much …

Ingredients

1/2 cup good olive oil 
2 cups chopped yellow onion (2 onions)
1 cup medium-diced carrots, unpeeled (3 carrots)
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and medium-diced (1 1/2 cups)
4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
3 cups (1-inch) diced ciabatta cubes, crusts removed
2 (28-ounce) cans good Italian plum tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Directions

Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, fennel, and garlic and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until tender. Add the ciabatta cubes and cook for 5 more minutes. Place the tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process just until coarsely chopped. Add the tomatoes to the pot along with the chicken stock, red wine, basil, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat, and allow to simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes.

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Home Sick

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10/21/2014

Home Sick photo

Well, one thing has stayed consistent at Soldier Field – the Chicago Blackhawks have still won more games on the lakefront in 2014 than the Bears.

The Bears’ inconsistent season continued as expected (or not) on Sunday with a pitiful 27-14 loss at home to the Dolphins. The Bears are 0-3 and minus 7 in the turnover battle at home this season, and 3-4 overall.

It was an overall lackluster effort on offense. For a group full of offensive weapons and firepower, it’s amazing to watch them consistently play with no urgency. They look relaxed out there, like they can just depend on their talent and assume everything else will just work out. Hell, we knew the defense wouldn’t be great this year, but at least they play with passion out there! I’d much rather watch a less talented group play with fire under their asses than a talented group play like they don’t need it – and that is exactly what the Bears have looked like on offense on multiple occasions this season.

Maybe we are starting to see that there is a reason Marc Trestman never got a head coaching job till now – like Thibs for the Bulls, sure he’s talented, but he’s close-minded. Yeah, Trestman is smart – the “Quarterback Whisperer,” maybe, but it seems he just can’t get it done, not as a head coach anyway. His game plans seem unprepared, he fails to make in-game adjustments, and he plays it safe, often to the Bears’ detriment.

I’ve asked all year for this team to define themselves, to create and harness an identity. But the truth is, this is who this team is – a middle-of-the-road, underachieving, .500 team. They’ll continue to give us false hope in certain games they aren’t supposed to win, (I’m predicting a win next week at New England) and let us down in easy ones like they have against Buffalo, Carolina and Miami.

They aren’t who we thought they were.

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