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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Lettuce Eat.

As if Cool Springs needs another fast-casual dining restaurant, tossed will open soon on Aspen Grove corner. I really can't complain---I love food, especially when it's prepared with thought and originality. And this NYC-based salad establishment claims that salads are fashionable. A little research turned up an offering of more than 26 dressings, and tossed even has a selection of crepes, with Nutella on the menu.

As each day passes, I sit at the stoplight at the end of my road and notice the latest contribution made toward the open of tossed. I predict that Lana and I will dine on frou-frou salads very soon...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Draw Near

After a really tough day, and a really tough month, I am somehow at peace. I was driving to Murfreesboro tonight after work, and I was sad. I love my life, but am puzzled at how God's plan is unfolding to shape my life. After a weekend spent with four of my very pregnant friends, I left wondering how I managed to miss the boat. And the stark realization that as I get older, my skills of independence are a necessity, not a luxury. I can't rely on my parents or family or friends like I used to---it's me, myself and I to deal with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Needless to say, I was feeling a bit down (to be honest, I still am). But driving down a desolate 840 and praying to my Lord, two words came to my lips: "draw near." Over and over again, I felt the strength of these words. I looked up at the storm-stained sky, and through a break in the thunderheads, I saw the sun emerge brightly. It blinded me, and I felt its warmth through my windshield. As quickly as it appeared, it disappeared, behind another slate blue cloud. At that moment, I understood---draw near. Not "here is the answer" or "here is the plan" or "go here, do this," but "draw near." I won't always be able to see God's face, but I can draw near to Him in the dark.

Later, while at the BeautiControl spa party Amy hosted, I found myself with aromatherapy cucumber pads over my eyelids, a warm rag over my forehead, and my feet in a hot oil bath. A CD of new age-mumbo-jumbo played in the background, with a man's calming voice telling me to relax my toes et cetera. It was a little humorous, but very relaxing---and then it became real---when he asked us to think of a word or phrase to meditate. Again, "draw near."

As soon as I got home tonight, I opened my Bible and found the following:

Psalm 73:28 -- "But as for me, it is good to be near God. I hve made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds."

Isaiah 55:6 -- "Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near."

Hebrews 10:19-23 -- "Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful."

So maybe I'm not married, and I'm definitely not pregnant. Maybe I'm growing up, and maybe it's pretty hard right now. Maybe I will deal with job pressure and stress, and maybe friendships will evolve and end. And maybe, just maybe, all of this can still yield contentment. I will draw near to Him, as He draws near to me.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sweet Basil

The best thing that happened to me today came on a wooden stick and was wrapped in plastic cellophane. It was mint green and had fragrant and floral flecks of fresh basil speckled throughout its velvety-smooth, delicately sweet, vanilla base. The little nugget of joy that made me delight in my day was a Basil popsicle from 12th South's Las Paletas.

Las Paletas, owned by Guadalajaran sisters, serves Mexican-inspired, gourmet popsicles in a wide variety of different flavors, including hibiscus, prickly pear, chili-cucumber, hot chocolate, rosepetal, Mexican caramel, coffee, chocolate with hot peppers, and all of your traditional fruity flavors too. And by flavors, I don't mean any of those artificial sugar alcohols that are made from ingredients that include the suffix --xyine or --enzate. These popsicles are 100% all naturale and are packed with chunks of fruits, vegetables, herbs, nuts and spices.

My Basil creation tasted like a fresh caprese salad with dessert rolled into one. And since I worked through my lunch break today, the little gem strangely satisfied like a meal.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Windy City Weekend

It was a whirlwind of a trip, and that's not only because the city really is windy. Did you know that Chicago wasn't nicknamed the "Windy City" because of it's gusty weather conditions? It was bestowed the name by its rival, Cincinnati, as they referred to Chicago's politicians as "blowing a lot of wind." That's just one of the things I learned two weekends ago (yes, I've been rather delinquent in my re-cap. I have a real job now. Sue me.)

Amanda and I skipped town Thursday evening and arrived at Jeff and Aly's posh apartment in Bucktown late into the night. After a blissful rest on a slowly deflating air mattress to a soundtrack of fire engine sirens and trash trucks (Chicago's a really noisy city), we emerged fresh, nervous and excited about exploring the city.

Our first feat of the morning was the El-Train. It was packed like a can of sardines for the morning rush hour, and Amanda and I wedged and smashed ourselves inside the car before the doors slid shut. I found myself floating along in a sea of people, with no bar or pole to hold onto. Amanda, who was standing next to the bar, is hanging on me instead. As the car lurches forward, I'm jostled back and forth as if I'm experiencing A Night at the Roxbury. Amanda and I finally figure out stability logistics, and then the train comes to a screeching halt. We're underground and after a minute, the conductor tells us there's a malfunction. The car becomes incredibly quiet, even more quiet than it was when we initially boarded. It was eerie. No one looked at each other, no one spoke, despite the fact that we were all sharing the same few inches of breathing room. Amanda and I thought this was hilarious. If something like that in Nashville, people would've been cracking jokes and connecting the dots of the social South. Weird.

The delayed ride caused us to miss our 9 a.m. architectural boat tour, so we started down Michigan Avenue, a.k.a. the "Magnificent Mile," to kill some time before the next scheduled tour. We found ourselves in an urban mall, and indulged in some gourmet chocolate at Ethel's Chocolate Lounge. Sufficiently sugared, the two of us boarded our boat and were greeted by a ornery, yet cheeky old woman to be our tour guide. The boat tour was very pleasant, and Chicago's architecture is beautiful---I even saw the Marina City Towers, featured on Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album---but by the time the tour ended, we were ready to retire our sea legs for dry land.

The afternoon continued as we shopped all over downtown Chicago. By one o'clock, we were starving, and we spotted Giordano's for some deep dish delight. Not wanting to wait 45-minutes, we foraged on, vowing to come back in a little while. A little while slipped succumbed to retail therapy, and we had assuredly lost our table. Instead, we called Siebe and Aubrey, who were randomly in Chicago the same weekend, and chit chatted on the streets in amusement. After we made plans for later in the evening, Amanda and I decided to stop in the lounge of the Signature Room, on the 96th floor of the John Hancock Tower, to take in the beautiful Chicago views. After a not-so-quick stop at H&M, we finally made it back over to Giordano's three hours later for lunch. Needless to say, we were both hungry and cranky.
Giordano's takes about 45 minutes to cook a pizza. No problem, as I enjoyed my caprese to stave off my growling belly. The time came and went, and we sat there longer and longer. After an hour and fifteen minutes, our pizza arrived, and we began to devour the pie. But one bit into it, we realized that it was cold. We sent the pizza back with the waiter, and it came back out 15 minutes later, with a little steam. It still wasn't hot, but at that point, it didn't matter. So much for our first attempt at world-famous Chicago pizza...

Amanda and I closed out the afternoon with some shopping in Chicago's Gold Coast area, and then met up with Siebe and Aubrey at the Pritzker Pavilion in Grant Park for a free symphony performanece of Broadway hits. Dusk arrived and after a photo-op at Chicago's Bean, we boarded the EL for Bucktown.
The featured dinner venue was Feast, a delightful restaurant where I had goat-cheese stuffed chicken and potato gnocchi. We ended our evening at Danny's Tavern, and let me just say that there are some HOT-TIES in Chi-town.

Saturday morning was the big day, and we began with a gourmet breakfast at Toast. It was a tough decision, but I finally settled on an apple, pear and brie crepe with drizzled honey, charred chicken sausage, and true-poached eggs. It was a fabulous meal.

A short ride over to Wrigley Field was in order, as we had tickets to see the Cubbies play the Diamondbacks. I was in heaven. I have a theory that if I lived in Chicago, I'd spend everyday at Wrigley. I was rather obsessed with the experience. Amanda and I capped off our day of Chicago baseball with some so-called "Chicago Dogs," another city-specific food disappointment. The Cubbies lost, the dog was soggy, and we froze on the unseasonably cold Chicago day, but it was still glorious.

Siebe and Aubrey joined Amanda, Jeff, Aly and I after the game for a pub-crawl through Wrigleyville. Although we got started rather early, the six of us found ourselves piled on top of each other in a cab, nearing the end of the day. It was a really funny cab ride, with Amanda up front talking Harry Potter to the turbaned cabbie and the five of us smashed in the back with some mystery ointment. Don't ask---although we do have photographic evidence if you must know.

Sunday came too soon, and Amanda and I were starving by the time we arrived at Tempo Cafe, our Sarah-Scott-recommended breakfast destination. We were seated al fresco, and enjoyed the skillet plates, stacked with potatoes, ham, bell peppers, tomatoes, four different kinds of cheese, and eggs.

The day slipped away quickly, and after some drama with a free shuttle to the Navy Pier, we paid our respects to the token tourist destination and its crazy mirrors. Late afternoon led us to the Art Institute of Chicago, but we were horrified to learn that we'd arrived only an hour before close. Long story-short, the two of us did the drive-by tour and managed to see our artwork of choice. I was thrilled to see my first-ever live Marc Chagall. The Art Institute alone is reason enough to re-visit the Windy City.

Later, Amanda and I met up with Jeff and Aly at Lou Malnalti's for one more attempt at Chicago pizza. Success! After dinner, we got a tour of a few Chicago 'boro's, and drove past the Hershey factory, where you could smell the warm chocolate scent for miles. If I moved to Chicago, you better believe it would be near this plant.

Amanda and I ended our Chicago weekend back at the Signature Room's lounge for some $15 mojitos and breathtaking nighttime views. It was a jam-packed weekend, and while our Monday-morning flight came all-too-soon, I had a wonderful time in Chi-town.

Our Chicago Family: Jeff, Aly & Lou

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