OyChicago blog

Meet the new Jewish kids on the baseball block

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09/28/2011

Jeremy Fine photo 

With the Phillies' Joe Blanton headed to the 60 day DL and Placido Polanco going to the 15 day DL they called up Michael Schwimer (no relationship to David or so we think). Schwimer was 9-1 in AAA with 10 Saves and a 1.88 ERA. He had 86 strikeouts in 67 innings.

Schwimer is now finishing the season with the Phillies, but it is yet to be seen if he will be on the playoff roster.

A day after Michael Schwimer got the called up by the Phillies, the Boston Red Sox called up Ryan Lavarnway. Lavarnway, was swinging a hot bat in AAA. This season he has 30 homers between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket while hitting .293. He's hit .301 in 55 games with the PawSox. Lavarnway also joined the roster when it expanded.

The third call up was Josh Satin of the Mets. Satin plays all over the infield. According to JewishBaseballNews.com, "Satin is versatile with the glove. He played 57 games at 3B this season, 44 at 2B, 20 at 1B, and another 12 as designated hitter. Though this will be the Hidden Hills, Calif., native’s first stint on an MLB roster, he had 6 at-bats with the Mets during Spring Training this year, going 2-for-6 with 1 HR and 2 RBIs."

Good luck to all three players who have a solid chance at starting in the big leagues next year.

And Let Us Say...Amen.

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An Ugly Duckling that is Really Delicious: Huitlacoche

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09/27/2011

Huitlacoche photo 

Corn smut, Mexican Truffles, Fungus, blight…Call it what you will, huitlacoche is just plain delicious.

The fungus spores infect the corn plant much the same way a mushroom spore infects wood. Considered a pest by many farmers, hutilacoche can decrease the yield of crops and can lower the value of corn. In Mexico and by many chefs, huitlacoche is considered a delicacy and highly prized. This was the case this week when I went to my favorite market stall and found a special basket of infected corn with fungus lovers huddled around it, all trying to find the most “infected” corn. I scooped up the precious ears and carried it back to my kitchen at Spertus.

My staff and I scraped off the fungus and corn kernels and a short while later feasted. The flavor of huitlacoche is sweet, woodsy and faintly mushroomy. Tasty! When you visit your favorite farmer’s market or corn stand ask for corn smut. If you can get past its ugly appearance you will be rewarded with an exotic wild mushroom flavor.

Huevos Rancheros con Huitlacoche  

Serves 6

1 cup huitlacoche (from about 6 ears of corn), scraped, rinsed and roughly chopped
1 medium red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups of corn kernels
1 cup Spicy Green Mole*
12 eggs
½ cup shredded cheese-Optional (I prefer white cheddar)
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 325

1. Place a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Lightly coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil. Add the huitlacoche, onion and garlic. Sauté until the onion is lightly browned, (about 5 minutes). Add the corn kernels and the mole. Reduce the heat to medium low.

2. Crack the eggs into the sauce. Sprinkle cheese on top and place the sauté pan in the oven. Cook the huevos rancheros until the eggs are set but the yolks are still liquid.
Serve with warm tortillas and additional cheese.

*Spicy Green Mole  

3 pounds tomatillos, about 8 medium tomatillos, husked and rinsed
1 small red onion cut in half
1 Serrano pepper, stem removed
3 cloves of garlic, do not remove from the skin
1/3 cup shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)*
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 avocados, pitted
Juice of 2 limes
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon hot sauce (optional)

1. Place the tomatillos, onion halves, Serrano pepper and garlic in a medium sauté pan. Heat the ingredients over high heat until the vegetables start to toast and blacken. Turn the vegetables to toast on all sides. Remove the vegetables as they turn black. Transfer the toasted vegetables to a blender or food processor.

2. Toast the pumpkin seeds in the same pan over medium high heat. The seeds will start to pop. Continue toasting until the seeds are light golden brown (about 2 minutes). Transfer the seeds to the blender.

3. Add the remaining ingredients to the blender and process until creamy and fairly smooth. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

*Pepitas can be found in Latin markets and many grocery stores.

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Reset buttons for the New Year

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09/26/2011

Reset buttons for the New Year photo 

The farm owners were busy making roasted tomatoes and canning salsa. Everything smelled fresh and tasted delicious. It was our annual trip to the farm in southwest Wisconsin. In our first 24 hours there, we picked apples and plums and raspberries and grapes and tomatoes and ate them right there next to the plants and trees. My daughters Violet and Autumn thought this was just about the best thing they’d ever done. I’m pretty sure they would have eaten tomatoes until their skin turned red if we had let them stay in the garden as long as they wanted.

On our second day it rained, and while everyone else was napping I got out my yoga mat to practice outside on the covered porch of our little house. My friend Becca describes yoga as a reset button – for both your body and your mind – and I couldn’t agree more. It feels therapeutic to stop everything and focus on your breath. My thoughts and my body both feel realigned afterward.

Sitting on the porch after my yoga practice I realized that going to the farm is like a reset button for the entire year. It seems right to make our trip close to Rosh Hashanah. As soon as we got to the farm it felt like everything stopped even though I was still physically racing up and down hills following toddlers who were chasing chickens. It felt slow like falling asleep when you’re not quite tired but your body is heavy from running around in the sun all day. Slow like toasting the perfect marshmallow over a dying fire. Slow like the opposite of my regular life.

I can’t think of a better place to stop our routine and reconnect with ourselves, nature, and family. This sense of stillness is something I find on my yoga mat, too. I know that wherever I am or whatever I am doing, I can always return to my mat and the deep breaths I find there, even if I can’t get to class. That feeling of centeredness is with me at all times – on the mat, at the farm, everywhere.

I suppose this is also like praying: finding a place inside yourself that you can come back to, a place to connect with God (or however you think about spirituality). I like this idea of finding something larger than yourself within yourself. Sometimes this place is hard to find, like when you are stressed about how your life has no purpose, or wondering what on earth it is about you that makes everyone think you are the nanny instead of the mom (just a couple random, hypothetical examples), but knowing that place is still in there (somewhere) can bring comfort and confidence and inspiration.

If the farm is an annual reset button, and yoga is an anytime reset button, then Shabbat is a weekly reset button. It’s a time each week to connect with ourselves and each other and slow down to remember what’s most important in our lives. Being at the farm reminded me that there are a number of paths to finding this feeling of stillness among the chaos of daily life. I’m sure there are other ways besides yoga and nature and Shabbat that help people find a way to connect and keep their sanity intact (feel free to share).

Now that we are back at home, the farm is still with me. Autumn and Violet are bawking like chickens and mooing like cows multiple times a day. The homemade tomato sauce is in the freezer and the calmness is in my mind. I plan on keeping the farm around all year. Tomato sauce and challah will be the reminders.

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An Israeli wedding

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09/23/2011

An Israeli wedding photo 

Despite being in Israel more times than I can count, I had never been to an Israeli wedding until this past week when my boyfriend’s best friend was married.

There isn’t one typical kind of wedding in Israel—every wedding reflects the couple’s religious values and familial influences. And this one was different than any of the 53 (I’m serious) other weddings that I have been to.

Let’s first start with the similarities. The bride looked incredible. Her dress was beautiful and was custom-made and not poofy. Ok, now you see why I don’t write for Vogue. All I know is that when I saw her, I immediately started to well up in tears. The wedding was held at a venue that mostly caters to weddings. It was beautifully decorated featuring great food, an open bar and a rocking DJ.

The differences were aplenty. Here were the top 10 + 1 for good luck.

1. The wedding was held on a Thursday night, because for many Israelis, that’s when the weekend starts.

2. The rabbi was not a major part of the ceremony (although you can’t have a wedding without him). He said the blessings and then was out of there, just as the bride (kallah) and groom (chatan) wanted it.

3. There is no wedding certificate because there is no civil marriage in Israel. The ketubah is the legally binding document.

4. When you enter there is a safe where you drop your cards with money (Israelis don’t really give gifts). To know how much money you are supposed to give, “there is an App for that.” The criteria includes:

a. How many are you? (single, couple, family)
b. What is your relationship to the bride or groom?
c. What is your profession?
d. Where was the wedding held?
e. What month was the wedding held?
f. What day was the wedding?

Then it provides you with the amount.

5. The bridal party is really just family, and they are the ones who stand under and by the chuppah.

6. It is normal for the guests to talk through the entire ceremony.

7. After the breaking of the glass, the crowd rushes the bride and groom with hugs and kisses.

8. Because this was a Mizrahi wedding (most of their family is from North Africa originally) there was the chair dance, but it wasn’t to the “Horah.” Instead of the mayim step, there is a Mizrahi step, more similar to “My Fat Greek Wedding” than “Fiddler on the Roof.”

9. While the women were wearing everything from jeans to formal wear, most of the guys were wearing jeans or khakis.

10. When you come with a date, it is normal to say, “B’karov etzlechem” which means “Your wedding will be soon.” It’s also normal for your neighbor and the guy at the gas station to say it when they see you walking out in fancy attire.

11. The bride and groom are going somewhere awesome like Thailand rather than relaxing (Hawaii).

Overall, my first Israeli wedding was tremendously fun and I wouldn’t mind going to 53 more!

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Repent, reflect, repeat

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09/22/2011

Blair Chavis photo 

It’s been a difficult and busy couple of months, with an intense work schedule and a death in the family after long-term illness. Without boring you or falling into shameless self-indulgence, I’m merely a bit tired.

I’m a “Type-A” girl and sometimes find myself off kilter when it comes to a work-life balance. As I type, I’m coming down with a cold, fall is upon us and I’m already in desperate need of a recalibration. Hopefully, I don’t sound like Alexander from the book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

As such, I’m particularly looking forward to the High Holidays this year. As a child with a limited attention span, I dreaded the seemingly endless hours spent in services, broken up by hallway breaks with my sisters and snatches of hard candy and gum from my mom’s purse.

As I’ve gotten older, the High Holidays have become a valuable opportunity in which I can sit still, and actually think about my life. The New Year reminds me of the chance to start fresh—whether it’s contemplating adjusting my daily schedule, or reconnecting with loved ones. In many ways, I think the Jewish New Year leaves room for reflection in ways New Year’s Day in January falls short. We have one life on this earth, and as we’re reminded with the Book of Life, we best be living it.

But the New Year isn’t just about self-improvement; it’s about making others’ lives a bit brighter through forgiveness, understanding and commitments to change—our promises during the Days of Awe. Sitting in services no longer feels like a marathon, but rather a time to sit in awe of life around me, of those sitting next to me, surrounding me, chanting with me.

I’m often reminded of a sermon my rabbi gave a few years back on Rosh Hashanah, recalling Jewish folklore, in which King Solomon is humbled by a phrase that could always be true in good times and bad: “This too shall pass,” or in Hebrew, Gam zeh ya'avor. There are supposedly many versions of this story, as is often true with folklore; I won’t retell the story for the sake of brevity. However, “This too shall pass” has been a phrase my mother has used with me throughout my life in times of difficulty. Similarly, her mother used the phrase with her. It wasn’t until I heard the sermon a few years ago, that I understood the duality of the saying—which made it resonate even more.

As the cliché goes, “Time heals all wounds.” However, I’ve also always been someone who’s keenly aware of when times are good—and to hold on while I can. Joy, like pain, is fleeting. I’d say many of us live our daily existences somewhere in the middle. It’s equally important, however, to remember the transient quality of pain and joy. Those moments are when we are most alive.  

When I went to Israel on Birthright I bought a silver ring with Hebrew letters carved in a shortened version of the phrase. I haven’t taken it off since. Still, sometimes I lose track of its meaning.

Every now and then, I have to remind myself: It’s time to breathe.

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Not just a grocery store

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09/21/2011

Not just a grocery store photo 

My initial thoughts about this month’s Oy! post weren’t gelling the way I had hoped, so I asked my friend Heather what I should write about. She said, “Whole Foods isn’t just a grocery store.” She is so right.

I live five minutes from the large Lincoln Park Whole Foods store. Hands down, this was the biggest bonus of moving into the neighborhood. The massive made-to-order foods section is always a convenient dinner option, giving me a great excuse to rarely cook, and the store offers so much more than simply groceries. There’s Tuesday Trivia night; the pub and wine bar; cooking classes; and I even saw a flier for yoga classes. 

This is not an ad for the LP Whole Foods, but admittedly, it is not the ordinary grocery store, or even the ordinary WF. Aside from all of its bells and whistles, my favorite aspect of WF is the way it brings people together. I know that statement sounds zany, especially for a store that simply sells overpriced natural foods and products, but it’s true. People socialize, go on dates, and shop there (not only for food, but for gifts, beauty products, and even Halloween costumes). I can’t think of another place that offers the same variety of experience and convenience.

My girlfriends and I have been frequenting WF for some time now, but about a month ago, we decided to make our visits a regular weekly occurrence, so we never go a week without catching up. WF has now become our version of the coffee shops on Seinfeld and Sex and the City. We choose from a variety of food genres at an affordable cost, we streamline our dinner plans with our grocery shopping, and there’s fantastic people watching, especially from a sneaky bird’s eye view on the mezzanine level. After a long day, WF is exactly what we have found we need. Yesterday, although stressed with busy season and tired from the already long week, I looked forward to convening at WF for some good food and conversation. I’m still trying to figure out what exactly makes it the perfect venue for that. We could have met anywhere – at one of our apartments or perhaps at Rockit, another one of our favorites, for some yummy truffle fries – but it probably would not have been the same. Our little cohort is not alone. The store continuously buzzes with singles, couples, moms and dads with their kids, and people from a variety of age brackets and cultures.

In life, especially in a big and busy city, we need something dependable, that we can always count on, even when everything else gets crazy. WF, certainly not just a grocery store, serves that purpose, and I’m grateful it’s just a five-minute walk away.

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Northwestern’s Oncoferility Consortium gives hope to young adults surviving cancer

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09/20/2011

Jenna Benn photo 

For young adult patients (ages 18-40) who are in the prime of their life, a cancer diagnosis can dramatically impact their trajectory in unique and specific ways. This demographic in particular has the misfortune of having to consider how cancer treatment will affect their fertility.

Historically, the medical field has focused their efforts on treating the disease, and has not spent enough time considering the individual as a whole. Young adult cancer survivors who are about to undergo treatment deserve to know the facts, deserve to know their odds, deserve to know what life can look like after cancer.

I would argue that understanding how your fertility will be affected, and what options are available, is just as important as understanding your cancer diagnosis and course of treatment. For young adult survivors, it is critical that fertility be discussed during the initial conversations with your primary care physician and/or oncologist.

Northwestern University’s Oncofertility Consortium, spearheaded by the brilliant Teresa Woodruff, provides young adult cancer patients with the necessary hope that there is life after cancer. Teresa and her team of experts are providing survivors with critical tools and resources for how to bring life into the world.

I am incredibly indebted to Northwestern University’s Oncofertility Consortium. I wholeheartedly believe that in learning about my risks and options, I was given the hope I needed to fight this disease.

I recently attended the Oncofertility Consortium’s five year gala where they premiered a short documentary showcasing their remarkable work. Featured in the film are leading reproductive specialists, oncologists and patients who have chosen to take their fertility into their own hands. It was an honor to be a part of this project, and I feel incredibly grateful to be a part of this beautiful community.

Learn more about the Oncofertility Consortium’s work here. 

A special thank you to Kristin Smith who helped guide me through this entire process. I do not know what I would have done without you. Thank you for your professionalism, your guidance, and your friendship.

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Days of Awe

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09/19/2011

Cindy Sher photo 2 

When I was a freshman in high school, a fellow Jewish kid in my class—a guy with a tendency to tease tall girls like me—approached me at the start of the school year and gave me a great big hug.

“I’m sorry, Cindy, for anything mean I did or said to you last year,” he told me.

I hugged him back, shocked and confused by his admission of guilt. In the ninth grade milieu of angst and pride, an exchange like this was unheard of. He was taking seriously the Days of Awe—the 10-day period of introspection in between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur when Jews are supposed to ask the people in their lives for forgiveness—and I respected him for that.

His apology touched me because, well, he did have something to be sorry for, but was a big enough person to show remorse for his wrongdoing.

That freshman encounter has stuck with me all these years. When those 10 days of repentance approach each fall, I contemplate what I’ve done wrong and even ask some of the people in my life to forgive me for my indiscretions.

But sometimes I can’t help but think what do I have to be sorry for? After all, I’m a good person: I smile at babies I don’t know, I offer my seat on the subway more frequently than the typical rider, I’m nice to my mother, what more can I do? And I have a feeling that most of you fall into the same boat—after all Oy!Chicago is known for its kind readers.

But if we really delve, no matter how upstanding we are as people—as Jews—we all have sins to repent for.

The other day, I googled the Al Cheit prayer, the confession of our sins chanted as a community on Yom Kippur. Sure, every year, I’d pound my fist to my my chest and recite the prayer along with the rest of the community since that’s what we’re supposed to do. But I figured I was really asking God for forgiveness for the sins of that guy sitting in the pew ahead of me in shul, because what had I ever done wrong?

Smugly, as I was re-reading the prayer on my computer screen, scrolling through the list of sins, I anticipated there’d be only one or two that I’d committed.

Truth be told, there were a bunch.

Now, I’m confident that in the past year I have not committed “causeless hatred,” “evil inclination” or “embezzlement.” My parents must be so proud! At the same time, I do admit that I’ve “prattled my lips,” “passed judgment,” and—as certain members of my family might vouch for—I’ve been guilty once or twice of “obduracy.”

And I’ve got a feeling I’m not alone. Suddenly, I understand why we chant the prayer together as a “we.” No matter how decent we are, we’ve all racked up a laundry list of sins through the course of the year.

What’s beautiful about this season of reflection is that, as the year comes to a close, we can repent for what we’ve done wrong this past year and start over with a clean slate for the new year. We’re lucky to get to do a little better next year and even better the year after that.

I lost track of that high school classmate of mine some time ago, but every now and then I wonder what he’s up to. Something’s telling me each year he’s doing a little better too. 

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The L’Chaim heard round the world

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09/16/2011

The L’Chaim heard round the world photo 

Every culture has its own version of it. As long as there have been alcoholic beverages, there have been toasts. To me, a toast is a sign of etiquette and respect, a display of goodwill. Sometimes, simply raising one’s glass can say more about a person than words. As a child, I always pictured that well-dressed man in the center of the room, rising from his seat, his glass lifted ever so slightly above his head and his face pulled back into a grin that could be seen for miles. Then, he quotes Twain, Shakespeare, Aristotle, and all the people around him are frozen in time, captivated by his every syllable. When he finishes, the sound of champagne flutes clinking are drowned out only by the sounds of the crowd cheering and celebrating a momentous occasion, everyone in the room dancing and singing the night away, without a care in the world.

Whether it’s lifting one’s spirits when they are down or congratulating one’s accomplishments or milestones, toasts remind us of important events in our lives, much like bookmarks in a book. They may not always mark happy times, but they certainly mark the meaningful ones. I believe that there is a lot of value and significance in this shared experience. While the moment may seem somewhat superficial and fleeing on the surface, in reality it embodies so much more. At a wedding, a father can tell his daughter how much he really loves her by sharing a story about her with the closest people in her life. A best man can rip the groom to shreds with embarrassing stories, corny jokes and nicknames that only a best man can do well. Parents can congratulate their child on completing school, couples can celebrate an anniversary, soldiers can honor the fallen and the forgotten. Each toast holds a memory or experience that can elicit strong emotions and stir even the most tempered individuals.

We are a people, a community. To raise a glass to one another is to share in a bonding experience. It can bring people closer together, help reinforce strong fraternal or familial bonds, even mend broken relationships. We all want to feel like we belong, that we are acknowledged and valued by others and by ourselves. Most importantly, we want to have something to celebrate, something important that can be shared and enjoyed with others. Every time we say the blessing over the wine, we are essentially toasting God in thanks for giving us the fruits of the vine to enjoy. From prayers to weddings to bar mitzvahs, it is built in to the Jewish custom and tradition to give thanks and to celebrate the joyous occasions in our lives.

As Jews, it is customary for us to say, “L’Chaim!” after giving a toast. It makes sense to end such a moment with the timely phrase, “to life!” and subsequently quench our thirsts. In one motion, we can acknowledge to God and the world around us how thankful, how lucky, how happy, and most of all, how humble we are to be alive and to have opportunities to enrich both our own lives and the lives of those around us. We consecrate those feelings and beliefs with a physical connection towards one another via clinking of glasses. As the wine glasses are brought together, so symbolically are those grasping them, united in a common experience.

As 5771 draws to a close, let us all take a look back at this past year and raise a glass, to all the good times and the not-so-good, and be forever grateful for having lived through it all. As we raise our glasses simultaneously, we acknowledge that, as the “wine” symbolizes life itself, the whole bottle of life experience has been poured out, shared with others, and brought back together again, if only for a brief moment.

L’Chaim!!!!

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The kindness of strangers

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09/15/2011

The kindness of strangers photo

I never had a bat mitzvah. Growing up, I did not belong to a synagogue. My family did nothing religiously organized. I married into a heavily community-affiliated Jewish family. I was married in their synagogue. My husband’s father was eulogized there. My children had their namings there and have attended the temple’s preschool. Our oldest is in Hebrew school and all but my youngest go to Sunday school there. Over the years, we have regularly attended Shabbat services for the kids and High Holy Day services there. I have made some friends and I have met some good people. But truth be told, after over 14 years, a connection to, or a soulful belonging within temple walls, has eluded me. Then one month ago, I found my connection to my Temple community. It was through the heart of the North Shore all the way to the South Side, in Englewood.

My husband and I have volunteered with young people in the Englewood community for many years. This spring, two of my Englewood students, whom I’ve known for the past four years, were accepted into college on scholarship. They are both the first in their families to go to college. The excitement in these kids was palatable. I was very, very proud of them. But, my excitement was a bit tempered when I found out from an Englewood community leader and mentor that the kids had received “the list.” That’s the list everybody gets telling you what you need to bring to college– from soap to a duvet and everything else in between. I remember that list– it represented the first step into my independence—and the argument that ensued between myself and my mom about my deep desire to buy light mint green sheets. She was attempting to dissuade me from my color choice as it would, “show every piece of dirt and dust!” I won the fight. (But she was right. Duh.) However, for my students, this list represented something else: an additional, unexpected roadblock. They had beaten the odds, earned scholarships through academic merit, and yet the reality set in that despite all that, they couldn’t afford the things they needed for school. They couldn’t afford the new beginning.

I was bereft. I was angry. But the larger issue for me was the injustice. And even larger, my issue was that here on the North Shore, I knew no one knew anything about it. So I called my friend, who is also a rabbi at my synagogue and I told her the story. She had been involved in many mitzvah projects over the years and I thought she might provide me with some guidance. A starting point. Anything. She listened intently and then asked me to email her the lists as well as a mini bio about each kid’s journey. I did. She then forwarded the information to about 30 people within our synagogue walls. The subject header read: “Want to help an incredible student go to college?” I was CCed in the email. Literally, within two minutes, someone emailed me offering $500. One minute later, I received an email donating $200. And it snowballed. People from the original email passed it on to friends and so on. In poured gift cards to Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond and Target. Checks. Cash. Someone offered to bake cookies and brownies and mail them to the kids during the year like she did for her own daughter in college. Another person bought sheets and a duvet. Pillows, lamps, soap, shampoo, laundry baskets, hangers, cleaning supplies. It was soup to nuts. Every single item covered and then some. Then I received a call that someone wanted to buy a brand new laptop and right after that, another laptop had been secured for the other student— at a shiva no less!— by someone simply being moved by the sharing of the story of kids who so desperately want to make it.

I cried. I cried tears of gratitude and happiness. I was so unbelievably moved by the kindness of strangers who were in turn moved by these kids’ stories and motivated to take action to help them succeed. Englewood, geographically and culturally, can feel like a very far away land from the North Shore. It would be easy to turn away and pretend like the kids there don’t dream about growing up and being someone great, just like our kids do. What I feel happened, was that strangers made attachments to the hope. Bigger things were opened— much more than just wallets – doors, opportunities, hearts. The students were sent off with a sense that they are deserving and that people – strangers, who felt a world away from them— believe in them. As for me, as someone who has felt at a distance in connecting in the organized Jewish community, I also finally felt like less of a stranger myself.

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D’Agostino’s Pizza and Pub

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09/14/2011

Kevin Friduss photo 

There’s a group of people who every month visit a new, sometimes popular, more often lesser-known Chicago pizza restaurant. That group is known as the Windy City Pizza Club. Over the past 13 months, they’ve networked, the singles mingled, and they ate award-winning pizza at places like D’Agostino’s Pizza and Pub in Wrigleyville.

D’Agostino’s Pizzeria has four locations throughout the Chicago area but their flagship location is at 1351 West Addison Street— just west of Wrigley Field. The location has been a pizza icon since 1968 when Joe and Jan D’Agostino opened the doors— not realizing then that their pub would soon be a Chicago Cubs pre-and-post-game legend. D’Agostino’s is known as the, “Best in Wrigleyville.” While the pizza isn’t to die for, everything else is fantastic.

The pizza is served four ways. There is the award-winning thin crust, which is paper thin and while tasty, lacks any fulfillment because of its lack of, well, everything. A fan favorite is the double thin crust, as this type of pizza has double the amount of cheese and dough, making it more, “Chicago” rather than Neapolitan. A frequent Windy City Pizza Club member David Stock said, “My shared medium olive thin crust tasted about the same as my Jewel brand frozen pizza I had a few days earlier. I will probably not go back here for pizza, but I could see myself coming back for a few beers and to watch a game on one of the many televisions.”

Unfortunately reviews like David’s are more and more common at D’Agostino’s. According to several critics that frequent pizza restaurants around the city, the pizza pubs in Chicago are moving away from the traditions that made them famous throughout the years. Regardless, there are others who would disagree and say that their pizza is as good as it gets.

From a personal experience, their stuffed cheese, and pan pizza do a little better as they are a mess of cheese, sweet tomato sauce, and whatever else you would like to add on to their supersize pies. If you really want to feel heavy and full, this is what you need. For someone to eat one of D’Agostino’s Pizza’s, you need to be okay with the heavy amount of grease, even if you’re only having a vegetable pizza. For newbie’s to D’Agostino’s, try the pan pizza— it’s great to share, very fulfilling, and goes well with an ice cold brew before or during a game. You can also get their pan pizza’s at Wrigley Field.

The restaurant is full of televisions, trains winding around the ceiling, red-checkered tablecloths, and a great menu that includes wonderful salads, like the DAGS Italian Salad or Walnut Gorgonzola Salad, which are both delicious to share as an appetizer. They also have pasta, sandwiches, and entrees like a jumbo fried shrimp dinner, and desserts to please. They have a chunky homemade chocolate chip cookie served warm with a gigantic Scoop of Homer’s vanilla ice cream topped with hot fudge for only $5.95.

Overall, the restaurant wasn’t a major hit with the club, but nonetheless, everyone agrees that it’s a place to go back to— just not for the pizza. The best part of the whole experience for everyone was the service. Sometimes, large group service is a problem anywhere you go, but with a friendly wait staff, cooks that are organized, and bartenders that can keep the pace flowing on a crowded day, D’Agostino’s Pizza and Pub has the push to keep Cubs, Sox, and fair-weather fans coming back for years to come.

For information on joining the Windy City Pizza Club, email Kevin at KevinFriduss@gmail.com.

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Who’s Jewish in Chicago movies

 Permanent link
09/13/2011

Fade to black hats photo 2 

Here is my list of the top 25 movies set in the greater Chicago area… and which of their creators or stars is Jewish. Please feel free (like I have to say this) to disagree with my choices, which are listed alphabetically. I’m not sure what I’m trying to prove— but can I just say: “Wow, that’s a lot.”

Ed Zwick photo 

1. About Last Night 
Director Ed Zwick; writer David Mamet (see the footnote, or “Bonus” section)

Jennifer Jason Leigh photo 

2. Backdraft 
Stars Jennifer Jason Leigh and Scott Glenn 

Carrie Fisher photo 

3. Blues Brothers 
Writer/director John Landis; cameo by Carrie Fisher 

Ally Sheedy photo 

4. Breakfast Club 
Stars Ally Sheedy and Judd Nelson (who is discussed in Ally’s Bonus section)

5. Brian’s Song 
Star James Caan (discussed in his son Scott’s bio)

6. Chicago  
Songwriters Kander & Ebb (see the Bonus)

Maggie Gyllenhaal photo 

7. Dark Knight 
Star Maggie Gyllenhaal 

8. Doctor Detroit
Star Fran Drescher  

9. Eight Men Out
Star Michael Lerner of When Do We Eat? 

Matthew Broderick photo  Jennifer Grey photo 

10. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Stars Matthew Broderick and Jennifer Grey; cameo by Ben Stein 

Harrison Ford photo 

11. The Fugitive 
Star Harrison Ford 

12. High Fidelity
Stars Jack Black and Lisa Bonet 

13. Home Alone
Star Daniel Stern 

Jeff Garlin photo 

14. I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With
Writer/director/star Jeff Garlin, stars Sarah Silverman, Paul Mazursky, and Richard Kind 

15. My Best Friend’s Wedding
Maybe writer Ronald Bass...?

16. My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Star Lainie Kazan 

17. My Bodyguard
Nada. Star Ruth Gordon plays a Holocaust survivor in Harold and Maude and a Jewish mother in Where’s Poppa, though.

18. Planes, Trains & Automobiles
I’m 90% sure actor Larry Hankin is, and…

19. Risky Business
…I’m also pretty sure director Paul Brickman is. Anyone with info on these two, please send it on.

Paul Newman photo 

20. Road to Perdition 
Stars Paul Newman and Jennifer Jason Leigh 

21. The Sting
Star Paul Newman 

22. Stranger Than Fiction
Stars Maggie Gyllenhaal and Dustin Hoffman 

23. The Untouchables
Actor Steven Goldstein 

Billy Crystal photo 

24. When Harry Met Sally
Stars Billy Crystal, Carrie Fisher. Director/star Rob Reiner; cameo by his mom (“I’ll have…”). Writer Nora Ephron. Soundtrack performed by Harry Connick Jr., mostly of songs written by Jews.

25. While You Were Sleeping
Star Jack Warden 

There are at least 25 other good movies set in Chicago, so look for this post’s sequel in the months to come.

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There’s no time like the PresenTense

 Permanent link
09/12/2011

There’s no time like the PresenTense photo 

The PresenTense Coordinators and PresenTense staff at our training conference in Jerusalem this past summer. 

This past week, PresenTense announced that it will launch 13 social entrepreneur fellowships in 10 cities around the world.  Some of the fellowships are with existing partnerships and others are brand new.  By next summer, dozens of new social ventures will launch in Chicago, Washington DC, Cleveland, Kansas City, Jerusalem, Moscow, Boston, Philadelphia, New York, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.  Social entrepreneurs are individuals with innovative ideas that can better the community, and social ventures are the result of taking those ideas and developing a new project or organization that provides solutions to social problems.  The fellowships, run as part of the PresenTense- developed Community Entrepreneur Partnership, are owned and managed by local partners in each of the cities, including Federations, JCCs, and the JDC.

Probably the most beneficial part of the PresenTense program is that there are many ways to be involved.  If someone has a big idea to make the Jewish community better in some way, the fellowship provides training and support to help that person see it through to a launched venture.  Many people are not looking to start new ventures or projects, but are still just as excited about the next big idea.  For these folks there is the steering committee—a group of individuals responsible for helping the program take shape and driving it forward.  The steering committee recruits the fellows, promotes the program and leverages their individual networks to bring in help.  Lastly, there are opportunities for experienced professionals in the Jewish and general business/entrepreneurial communities to act as mentors and coaches for the group of fellows. 

The program culminates in a one of a kind event known as Launch Night.  At Launch Night, the entire community comes together to get a first look at what a group of social entrepreneurs has created!  What start as just ideas, turn into real ventures that have the potential to create lasting change in local communities and those abroad.  Over the past five years PresenTense has been operating this program, they have launched over 140 ventures around the world.

Some of the brightest stars have included Challah for Hunger, an organization devoted to making challah on college campuses and selling them to raise money for charities.  It now exists on over 40 college campuses and has raised over a quarter of a million dollars.  Meanwhile, the Warehouse is bringing in young Jews that feel unaffiliated and underserved by providing non-traditional spaces and worship opportunities for them and incorporating music and new media.  Lastly, On Both Feet was started in Boston to combine improvisational comedy and Jewish texts to create interactive training and experiential education programs.

Part of my new role at the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington is to coordinate the Washington DC fellowship.  Chicago’s fellowship will be coordinated by Sara Massarik, who, as it turns out, is a pretty amazing choice for the job!  I recently met Sara when we both attended coordinator training in Jerusalem over the summer.  She is bright, experienced and knows a lot of the right people to help this project move forward.  She also happens to care a great deal about the Jewish community in Chicago. 

Questions?  Know someone that wants to get involved?  There is an informational meeting coming up soon, so email Sara Massarik, Chicago Coordinator at smassarik@gojcc.org for more information.

For the Greater Washington DC community: Email Andy Kirschner, DC Coordinator at andrew.kirschner@shalomdc.org.

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Esther and the airplane

 Permanent link
09/09/2011

Esther and the airplane photo 

My parents have been telling me I should visit the National U.S. Air Force Museum at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base for ages. It’s understandable: I spent about two and a half years living and breathing WWII paratroopers, thanks to Band of Brothers. Planes have never been a particular interest of mine, but my parents wanted to share what they’ve enjoyed on previous visits (we have a wonderful photo of my mother posing in front of a bomber decorated with a gorgeous pinup, “Strawberry Bitch”). When I came back to Ohio for a visit over Labor Day weekend, we dropped off Gus at the dog spa, took the day and drove the 90 minutes to Fairborn.

My first surprise was how enthralled I was by the early airplanes. The turn-of-the-century flying machines and First World War dogfighters were works of art; I was particularly taken with the beautiful grain of the wood propellers. (In August, after wanting desperately to do it since I was five, I finally got to go whale-watching in Massachusetts; laugh if you want, but there was something about those early planes that reminded me of the humpbacks we saw. They were incredibly graceful, even if some of them were literally made of balsa wood.) Seeing those artifacts in the flesh always fills me with a sense of awe—it doesn’t take much to look at the crumpled goggles and high-laced boots and imagine the people who dared flight when it was a much more dangerous proposition.

On the other side of the hangar (one of three that comprise the museum) were the WWII exhibits. This was where I recognized more, and it was an equally astounding experience. Spitfires! Jump boots! Glenn Miller’s glasses! A C-47, like they used over Normandy! Painted bomber jackets! Whizz! Bang! Pow! It’s easy to get caught up in the sheer neatness of browsing through all these artifacts; the past is right in front of you, and real people used these objects as everyday parts of their lives. It’s a shivery, immersive feeling that I really treasure; it’s the same feeling I get reading oral histories. This compass helped someone stationed in the Aleutian Islands. This cap kept a pilot warm over North Africa. This lighter belonged to a kid from Brooklyn who died at 21.

After two hours, everyone started getting antsy and wanting some lunch. There was a lot of museum left, but I’d seen most of what I’d come for, and there was only a little of the WWII hangar still to see. I went ahead while my parents examined a greatcoat worn through the Battle of the Bulge. The end of the exhibit was all Pacific bombers, with bronzed and bare-chested mannequins unloading crates and checking on machinery. The last airplane was monstrous, a gleaming silver behemoth nearly the size of a commercial plane. After weaving through a number of placards, I finally stumbled on the identifying signage.

I was standing in front of Bockscar, the plane that dropped Fat Man on Nagasaki. A replica atomic bomb was on display near the loading bay. All my excitement at the other artifacts shriveled up. Seventy thousand casualties happened under this plane. And then an impossibly brutal war ended. How do you reconcile that? I had to leave as soon as I could. To go from that to the gift shop was an exercise in emotional whiplash. I don’t think the mood wore off even as we were driving home.

I wasn’t prepared to see Bockscar, and I wasn’t prepared to be so overwhelmed. My relationship with the other exhibit items had been very innocent and uncritical, which, in retrospect, did a disservice to us both. The bomber was presented in a completely heroic context, but I had other things on my mind: the testimonies of Japanese and Americans who lived through the bombings and their aftermaths, as told to Studs Terkel in “The Good War”; and an article I’d read last month, contending that Japan surrendered because of Soviet entry into the Pacific Theater, and claiming that the destruction of cities has never been a deterrent in modern warfare.

It’s easy to get comfortable with a narrative. We are taught in most American schools that bombing Nagasaki saved countless lives and spared the world a much-prolonged conflict. That might be true. But there’s always something new to understand by demanding discussion of past events.

We’ve been asking a lot of questions as we prepare for the anniversary of 9/11: What happened? What did we do? What do we know now? What could we do better? The questions we’re asking this week shouldn’t be an annual exercise, but a continual one. What we do with how we answer is too important for us to simply remember and not engage.

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The great pet debate—and the great answer

 Permanent link
09/08/2011

Years ago, when I started dating David, the man who would end up being my husband, I knew that if this was the real deal, pets would be the great debate in our relationship.

He always had pets growing up—everything from dogs and cats to turtles and birds. The dog he had as a young child, a lab named Hershey, lived a long and fulfilling 14 years and was beloved by David and his family until she passed away a couple years ago.

I had a goldfish. His name was Sammy (although whether or not he was a “he” was unconfirmed). Sammy actually lived for five years, though it seems I did nearly everything I could to kill him sooner—I didn’t feed him regularly, his bowl wasn’t cleaned nearly enough, and as you can guess, we rarely spent much time together. I’m horribly allergic to cats, slightly scared of dogs and pretty much every other potential pet (excluding fish, obviously) grosses me out.

David would always point out dogs he liked and suggest potential breeds for us to get for our first pet. Once he warmed me up to the idea of a dog, it never seemed that we saw eye-to-eye. My allergies kept us restricted to only hypoallergenic breeds, ruling out dogs like huskies, bulldogs, and all the other “manly breeds” that David so admired. And besides, I didn’t want a huge, scary dog. I wanted something cute and cuddly, preferable the size of a small handbag (that would perhaps fit in a large handbag). When I suggested a mini-poodle, a cockapoo or a bichon, I was swiftly rejected—according to him, the Friedmans would not own a tiny dog that would leave my husband feeling emasculated.

The years passed and every few months, the topic would come up, we would disagree once more, and it would be tabled. But then this summer, David graduated from business school at the end of June and has several months off before he starts work on Halloween (it’s ok to be jealous—I am).

We realized that now, more than ever, was the perfect time to get and train a dog, while he had so much time at home. So the debate resumed, this time with more research and deeper thought. Because of my allergies, adopting or rescuing a dog was not a viable option. We started researching breeds and breeders, and discovered that there was such a thing as medium-sized dogs, dogs that are not too girly or manly and options that we could both fall in love with.

And let me tell you—looking at pictures of puppies on the internet is quite possibly one of the greatest things it has to offer.

In the end, we settled on looking for labradoodles or goldendoodles. We both compromised—we wouldn’t be getting a dog that would fit in my purse, but we wouldn’t be getting a 70 plus pound dog either. She’d be hypoallergenic, but fun and cute without being yippy or goofy looking.

And when we visited the breeder, it didn’t take long to fall head over heels. Pictured below is the fruit of our compromise, the world’s cutest and most amazing puppy of all time (from the most biased blogger ever, but that’s neither here nor there), Kenzie.

The great pet debate photo 2 

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Being alone to make friends

 Permanent link
09/07/2011

Rachel Bertsche photo 2 

Last Friday, through the cloud of my sinus-y, phlegmy sickness-from-hell, I mentioned that I recently had a bit of a making friends aha moment.

Well, the clouds have parted, I can finally breathe through my noise and swallow without wincing, so I’m focused and ready to discuss.

Gretchen Rubin, in her Secrets of Adulthood, says that “the opposite of a great truth is also true.” (As it turns out, she borrowed this from physicist Niels Bohr, but let us not pretend that I am caught up on the work of physicists. In fact, I opted out of physics in high school.) Examples, for Rubin, include: “Control and mastery are key elements of happiness; so are novelty and challenge;” “The days are long, but the years are short;” “Happiness doesn’t always make me feel happier.”

I’ve always loved these truthful contradictions, because I believe in this “secret” wholeheartedly. I’ve gotten in many a tiff with my husband where he will say, “You’re contradicting yourself!” and I’ll say, “But I’m telling the truth!” It may not be logical, but it’s real.

When it comes to friend-making here’s my revelatory discovery, two truisms that contradict: “To make friends, you must be okay with being alone.”

Did I just blow your mind?

There are many reasons why this is true. First, back when I wasn’t as comfortable being alone, I often stayed in because I didn’t have anyone to go out with. So instead of going out, exploring, and talking to new people, I’d stay at home, peruse Facebook, and watch Friday Night Lights (R.I.P Riggins). As you can imagine, this exercise in TV watching didn’t bring me any new BFFs.

Also, when I wasn’t as cozy in the world of solo adventuring, I would see a sign for a class or an activity–say, a dance class or a flash mob–and I’d think: That looks like fun, I wish I had a friend to do it with. Now, my thought process has flipped. The new reaction to a posting for said class or flash mob is: That looks like fun. Maybe I’ll make a friend when I do it. See the difference? The first is restrictive–since I didn’t have a friend, I didn’t do it. The second offers possibility–do it anyway, and maybe (bonus!) make a new pal.

People often think they want friends because they hate being alone, when really you should want friends because you love company. There’s a difference. People who fear time with themselves, and thus find company in the arms of The Kardashians or even a good book (and I’m not knocking either one), will likely find themselves alone for far longer than those who embrace the solo lifestyle. Aside from the reasons above, people who are comfortable with themselves and don’t need a companion for every little thing, exude a confidence that attracts new friends. The opposite attitude can potentially project a neediness that turns others off. Something to think about…

Do you agree with this friend-making contradiction? Have you found that the more comfy you are by yourself, the easier it is to meet potential BFFs? Do you have another friend-making Secrets of Adulthood you are ready to share?

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My birth story

 Permanent link
09/06/2011

My birth story photo 

Twenty-seven days ago, Tanya Ester Avigyle came into this world, alert and alive, looking wide-eyed at me while I stared at her in disbelief, gasping, “oh my God, oh my God” on repeat for what felt like forever.

But this isn’t the story of the afterbirth; of the lessons and ways my mind has taken in this new abrupt identity and transformation, as physically my body recovers from shedding 25 lbs. in the span of a few minutes.

It’s the story of the sequence of events that led up to that, the frantic cab ride, the months of emotional and intellectual preparation, the fear of the unknown, that waiting and the waiting, the decision of to induce or not to induce as I approached 42 weeks, the days of being cooped up in a fourth floor Israel apartment in the heat of the summer, and the final day in which everything I had been hoping for in the last nine plus months came to fruition.

After learning about how labor and birth can be the ultimate spiritual, emotional and intellectual challenge, (check out the fantastic book Labor of Love) I decided that I wanted to take on the challenge of attempting to have a holistic birth experience; learning how to relax my body while it encountered the greatest pain of its life, learning how to release fear and embrace the unknown, learning how to trust that my body can do this, that it was meant to do this. I was going to try and give it my all, and try and do it without pain medication— as much as I could.

On the 10th of Av, August 10th, a day after Tisha B’Av, I awoke at 11 a.m., and started to feel my body experiencing some sort of inner pressure.

By 1 p.m. it was pretty obvious—I was finally going into labor.

I labored at home until I was ready to go to the hospital. They say it’s important to stay at home, in an environment of safety and familiarity as much as you can. The experience of being in a cold, unfamiliar hospital arena can cause a woman to tighten up, become afraid and complicate the labor thus slowing it down.

My husband came home excited and encouraged me throughout the entire thing, as I, in a fog, tried to visualize myself running track, with teammates, friends, even my track coach! (Where did he come from?) All rooting me on. “I can do it!” I chanted. “I can do it!” “You can do it!” My husband shouted back at me grinning. “You can do it!!”

By 6:30 it was becoming increasingly obvious that now was the time REALLY the time, as I realized that I was feeling the need to push, and that the baby was pretty ready to come into this world.

My duela arrived and the three of us quickly hailed a cab. It was the classic scene of a woman frantically huffing and puffing in the backseat of a taxi, as the cab driver according to my husband, was grinning from ear to ear, having the time of his life, with an excuse to drive as crazy as he wanted along the Israeli streets—an Israeli cab driver’s dream come true.

“Pray for me,” I shouted to my husband, calmly turning to the duela to explain, “God listens to him.” She laughed and nodded, “I’m sure He does.”

We arrived and my duela ran through the hallways with me in a wheelchair huffing and puffing. Being overcrowded, I’m taken into a room with two other women giving birth, sectioned off by a curtain, and the process of pushing begins.

“Imagine your child in your hands very soon,” the duela encourages, but this doesn’t help me because I never really have held a baby before and didn’t know what it felt like.

And so I dreamed of the only thing I knew—having Shabbos meals with my children, standing proudly at their bar mitzvah, watching them go to the chuppah… and as the pain came in waves, in my mind’s eye, I saw two golden challahs, and that’s what I concentrated on as my body swayed back and forth. I looked up to God and told Him, I’m doing this for you, so help me through this, knowing that it didn’t have to been painful if He didn’t want it to be.

Finally, the time had come, and as I lay on my back, she emerged, wide eyed, alert, and loving, reaching towards me as I stared at her in disbelief. Wait, what? What just happened? Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God…

I had gotten through it without any medication, just with two golden challahs in my mind, a lot of love and support.

That’s the story. But here comes the real story, the reason why it all took place. Now comes the ultimate challenge. May it be revealed good. Hello, Tanya Ester Avigyle. Welcome to this world. Let’s get to work.

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Sports nutrition 101

 Permanent link
09/02/2011

Sports nutrition 101 photo 

My wife gets mad at me— as she should— when I judge her sweet tooth. The truth is, I also have a mean sweet tooth. I try and avoid the office M&M’s and the giant sized cupcakes being sold in trucks and bakeries on every street corner, but I’m only human. I try to keep sugar at bay with small portions and I opt for freshly baked goods as opposed to boxed goodies.

When people ask me how to avoid sweets, I have one simple answer for them, eat what you want, but only take a taste. And if you know you are going to have a heavy meal, a Specialty’s Bakery cookie (my favorite) or something else dangerous, make sure it’s a day you’re working out. My other big tip, log your food. Write down everything you eat for one week and you will have a good understanding of your diet.

If you want more nutritional advice, turn to the experts. (I’m always happy to recommend a good nutritionist.) Recently, I met with one, sports nutrition expert Deb Ognar. I was curious to see if my post exercise chocolate milk was a good choice or just a tasty one. Here is some of what I learned:

The best thing to eat/drink after a workout
Recovery doesn't start until you rehydrate and refuel after long intense workouts. The recovery meal may be the most important meal of the day. If you are consistently training hard or working out multiple times in day, rapid recovery is a must. Eating within 30 minutes of finishing an intense workout can help an athlete recover faster, minimize chronic fatigue, and help train your muscles to store more fuel.

Nutritional components of recovery should include: fluids (24 ounces for every pound lost during a workout), carbohydrates (about half your weight in grams of carbohydrates), and protein (10-20 g). The carb to protein ratio should be around 3:1. Basically carbs should be the focus with a little protein added. Great recovery food/drinks include:
• chocolate milk (I win)
• sports bars
• peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
• granola bar
• graham crackers with peanut butter
• trail mix
• yogurt
• crackers and string cheese

Energy drinks
Energy drinks can give more immediate energy due to the high level of caffeine and sugar content. However, many energy drinks contain substances and other stimulants in them that can be dangerous. They usually have multiple stimulants in them that when combined can be dangerous. A few hazards of energy drinks:
• decreased concentration
• heart palpitations
• nervousness
• increased blood pressure

Safe ways to boost energy
Healthy ways to increase energy are: make sure you are well hydrated (dehydration causes fatigue), make sure you are getting enough sleep, eat a balanced healthy diet, eat every few hours (avoid skipping meals and snacks), and consume enough carbohydrates to support your activity level.

Do I really need to take my Flintstones (multivitamins)?
A multivitamin can give a person extra coverage if they don't consistently eat a varied diet. Although a multivitamin shouldn't be a substitute for whole foods, it can fill in some nutrient gaps that might be missing in the diet. The US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee identified vitamin D, calcium, iron, B-12, and folic acid as some nutrients that many Americans consume too little of.

How do you know if a supplement is safe?
If a label carries a USP or NSF seal then the supplement contains what is stated on the label. Also, NSF Certified for Sport is another independent company that does testing on products to confirm content, purity, and identifies banned substances.

Recommended supplements
Working with NCAA athletes, supplements are always a tricky area. Since they are not regulated by the government there is no guarantee that supplements are not contaminated or tainted with NCAA banned substances. If collegiate athletes decide to take supplements, they do so at their own risk, and are ultimately liable if something comes up in the product.

That said whey protein, which is naturally found in milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, and other dairy products, is rich in branched chain amino acids (BCAA). Whey protein has a higher content of leucine compared to other proteins. Leucine has been independently shown to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. Since during exercise the body uses a small amount of BCAAs, it would be helpful— as part of recovery nutrition— to replenish them. Bottom line—including a carbohydrate source and high quality protein (such as whey) post exercise (in a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein) in combination with resistance exercise can help with muscle mass gains and muscle recovery.

Creatine has been shown to increase lean mass, encourage strength gains, enhance recovery and increase endurance. Note that not only is it found in supplemental form, it can be also found naturally in meat, fish, and pork. Additionally, caffeine has been shown to aid performance in long endurance activity and might also improve performance in intense short duration exercise. Urinary caffeine levels exceeding (15ug/mL) is banned in NCAA athletics.

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The Fifty/50

 Permanent link
09/01/2011

Kevin Friduss photo 

In a city known for deep dish pizza, hot dogs, and spicy fries at U.S. Cellular Field, a little know secret still remains at the ultimate popular sports bar in Wicker Park, Fifty/50.

After years of disgraced and so-so Buffalo wings at almost every bar in Chicago, we have finally found the ultimate wing. This wing isn’t like any other you have ever come across. This wing is quite large with choices such as regular or boneless and flavors such as buffalo, teriyaki, tangy BBQ, BBQ, or orange sauce. All in all, these wings have something to offer to anyone. You can go with the 8-piece ($9), 16-piece ($17) or massive 50-piece set for a sum of $45. The only warning that I have heard from frequent wing buyers is that each wing equals two, meaning, your order actually means double.

Fifty/50 is a three level sports bar with two bars and 12 flat screen televisions and mainly focuses on secret sauces, fried foods and sandwiches. Each floor has a slightly different feel—the main and lower levels consist of booths, high-tops and a bar while the top floor has regular four-person low tables. With owners like Greg Mohr and Scott Weiner (Joe’s Prime Steak and Seafood) and investors such as Yankees player Curtis Granderson and renowned chef Brian Storey, this sports pub is the real deal, and worth a try.

Not only is the food menu impressive, but they also are serving up 40 oz. beers that vary each week, as well as a bunch of domestic brews. The beer menu is tourist-like, meaning cheap, with very little craft and micro-brew items. Nonetheless, they always have daily deals such as $1 beer Mondays and fun events during March Madness and the Super Bowl that make for a lively atmosphere. They also have a DJ that regularly plays between commercials for big games.

If you’re a big sports fan and attending the Fifty/50 for a big game, be sure to arrive at least an hour early for a table, order the nachos and cheese fries for an appetizer, and then let the spicy wings and good times roll. By the way, if you’ve ever ordered wings at Wrigley Field, Fifty/50 supplies the wings of the Cubs!

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