My 27th Birthday

20 Jun

As an only child the thrill of my birthday will never cease to be the highlight of May. I love the attention but most of all, as I discovered, the feeling that all of my friends (there were about 15 people in total!) came out to celebrate with me/for me. It’s a humbling and exciting feeling. And it made me drink. A lot.

My weekend started out how it usually does – hitting the Mt. Prospect community garage sales during the day with my parents. After a few hours of scoring goodies (including a $0.50 JED lunch box from the 80’s that I sold on eBay within a week) I packed up and headed back to the city to get ready. My friends started arriving for pre-dinner drinks and at 7:00 the whole group headed to Renaldi’s, one of my favorite pizza places in Lincoln Park. My friend’s husband, Brad, ordered Fireball whiskey shots (followed by the manager buying a second round) and I think that was the beginning of the end.

After pizza and drinks we followed my very-strict schedule of dive bars along Lincoln Avenue near my apartment (so people could easily grab their cars and head home if they needed to).

We went to the following bars (I can’t tell you much about the experiences at most of them because it’s a little fuzzy):

Rose’s Lounge

Atlas Brewing Company

Patsy’s Place

JP Burke’s Patio & Tap

The night ended (for me) around 1:00 am and luckily my friend Kayla was staying over so we got each other home safely. I wasn’t feeling the best so I did what I always do when I don’t feel well and drew myself a bath. The bath felt great. So great, in fact, that I found myself still in there at 8:30 am (thanks Kayla and Marc for checking in on me!). Don’t worry – it’s not as dangerous as it sounds. I am a pro at taking baths and it’s almost physically impossible for me to drown. The way I position myself/the size of the tub does not allow for my head to get beneath the water level unless I’m in a funky, uncomfortable yoga position.

The next day (my actual birthday) Kayla and I had our second-to-last wood working class at the Rebuilding Exchange. That was pretty rough for us hungover party animals. I headed home to the suburbs after that and visited my neighbor’s soccer game, sorted through my treasures from the day before, and picked up an ice cream cake for myself. Around 5:00 my family and neighbors went out to Portillos for a birthday dinner celebration followed by ice cream cake at my parents’ house. It was the perfect weekend!

My parents bought me a paddle board as a present. More on that to come!

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Nashville St. Jude Country Music Half Marathon

18 Jun

It has been a hot minute since I’ve posted on Gerbs’ Blurbs. Thanks for following along. I’ve been traveling and racing and adventuring so I’ve got lots to share the next couple of days to catch up my loyal reader(s).

The last Friday in April my friends Jamie, Jenny, Kayla, Mandy, Pam and I (yes, that’s 6!!) loaded up Jamie’s dad’s car in Bartlett, Illinois, and headed south to Nashville. We had a smooth ride full of fun chats and laughs and arrived in Tennessee around 4:00 pm. We made our way to the expo to pick up our packets and gear and check out the vendors. I bought a pair of special Nashville Rock ‘N Roll marathon/half marathon socks, a 13.1 magnet for my car, and a cool new phone holder for runs. I didn’t end up using it in the race but it’s cool for training.

After the expo we were starving and because we were staying in an AirBnB condo we had the opportunity to cook our own carb-loading meal. We went to a local grocery store and picked up ingredients for spaghetti, garlic bread, and salad and had a great time cooking and dining. We turned in relatively early because we had a 5:00 wake up call for the run.

We were lucky in the sense that our condo was within three minutes walk from the start. Because we took advantage of the location and factored in our later wave start we almost missed the gear check which closed at 7:00 am. We crossed the start line around 7:40.

Our group of six stuck together for less than a mile before we paced and spaced ourselves out. It felt like we got a quick start but I found that even at the first mile we were pacing around 11:00 miles, slower than how I had trained. We had been warned that the Nashville course was full of hills but could not have possibly prepared for what we were about to face for thirteen miles.

I think the hills were the number one thing that contributed to a 2:31 finish. I had finished 11 miles under two hours while training so I didn’t expect to exceed my goal finish time by almost two minutes. The hills were brutal, though. I tried to power through them but every climb got harder and harder. I walked up most of them and it really messed with my mental plan for the race.

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My favorite parts of the race were reading the signs and interacting with the crowd. Kayla and I wore matching, crazy pants so we got a lot of cheers (when we ran together). We saw people passing out shots, beers, Jolly Ranchers (which I loved!), salt packets (gross?), pretzels, orange slices (yum), and Krispy Kremes. We actually saw a lot of Krispy Kremes.

The weather for the race was near-perfect although the sun got hot. I was grateful to have sunglasses. Because this race was a Rock ‘N Roll-branded marathon there was supposed to be music at every mile but I’m not sure there was. Our entire group chose to run without music (opposite of how I trained) and I sort of regret that decision. Yes, I liked hearing the bands as we ran by but unfortunately most of the time they were inbetween sets for the 20-30 seconds we were within ear shot.

Overall, the race was really fun. It was very challenging and exhausting. We all struggled to have energy and move around the rest of the day/night as well as the next day, but we were all proud and accomplished.

When I was checking my official race time on the Rock ‘N Roll site I realized the craziest thing – there was another woman with my exact same name that finished within 120 seconds of me. She’s from New York, I doubt we’ll ever be reconnected, but how funny is that? What are the freakin’ odds?

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The next day we celebrated with my favorite Nashville stop – Monell’s. If you’re traveling to Nashville it’s a must-do. There are five tables that seat twelve people and everyone (whether you know the people at your table or not) is served family-style and passes the food left. There is more food than you’ll know what to do with but it’s all delicious and reasonably priced. Brunch was no exception.

After brunch we walked around and looked for antique stores and thrift shops. We found a few good places and I picked up a cute dress and headband. Some of the girls got old blue prints of airplanes that will make great decorations.

Sunday night we had downtown Nashville to ourselves! Most people headed back home after the race Sunday but we had planned to enjoy the day and head back Monday. We lucked out because the very crowded bars and long lines from the day before were non-existent. It’s interesting to me how popular of a destination Nashville is becoming. What (I think) was once a southern city for country music lovers is becoming the hot spot for girls’ trips, bachelor and bachelorette parties, and road trip destinations.

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Where should our next girls’ trip half marathon be? We’re thinking Savannah, Georgia.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash

10 Jan

I’m following the new Weight Watchers Simply Filling plan but no matter your diet Spaghetti squash (hereby referred to as SS) is a great, low carb noodle substitute.

My friend (hi, Shaina!) had never heard of SS so I took pictures of the process so she could replicate and I thought it’d be a good idea to share!

First, realize SS is a fall squash, so it might be hard to find in this desolate winter season. If you do get your hands on one, follow these steps and pair with your favorite recipe in place of noodles!

Spaghetti Squash 1

This is a Spaghetti Squash

Step one: Slice the SS in half lengthwise. This is actually pretty difficult, because it’s stiff. Use a strong man sharp knife.

Spaghetti Squash 2

Spaghetti Squash Step 1

Step two: scrape out the seeds. I use a grapefruit spoon for this to really get the guts out. This always reminds me of carving a pumpkin.

Spaghetti Squash 3

Spaghetti Squash Steps 2 & 3

Step three: Slather olive oil on both sides. I usually use 1 tsp on each piece, but that ends up being more than enough.

Step four: ZAP! in the microwave for about 10 minutes. In this particular case I had to put them in for longer, and you’ll know if you need to when you get to the next step.

Spaghetti Squash 4

Spaghetti Squash Step 5

Step five: (Warning, it’s going to be HOT!) Take a fork and run it across the inside of the SS to create stringy things (your noodles)

Step six: Mix! You can put some in a skillet, serve with pasta sauce, or bake into a cheesy casserole (100% Simply Filling) that I want to try next.

Does swapping SS for noodles work for you? Some people maintain that there is no noodle substitute. Let me know!

Skiing in Wisconsin

9 Jan

I think the first time I went skiing was in fifth grade with girl scouts. We all bundled up and slipped down the bunny hills at Villa Olivia in suburban Chicago. Then, we nearly lost the skin off our hands getting pulled up the tug-rope thing they hike they use to hike you up and send you back down. After that I don’t think I touched another set of skis until 2009 when my class did a project in Boise, Idaho, and my small group tried to get some video footage of some Special Olympics skiers. My teammates convinced me I’d be fine and I most definitely wasn’t. I ended up walking down the ski hill.  The next day we went back to the Boise ski area and I took my time on the easiest hills and really made progress. Since then I decided I was going to love skiing.

Since I returned from college in Miami I’ve been going skiing in Wisconsin every winter. Unfortunately

Skiing

Jamie, Kayla, Me

(or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) we haven’t had big snow (except the Snowpocolypse of 2011) so most of my skiing has been on the artificial mist they spray onto the hills.

This past weekend my friends and I went to our favorite slopes at Alpine Valley in Wisconsin. It’s not far from Lake Geneva, another popular vacation destination for us Chicagoans. I bought new snow pants from Athleta, a new Columbia lime green jacket, and wore my new Etsy crocheted/braided headband over my cover-all face mask thing to dress it up, of course. That damn headband kept falling off every time I took off my ski goggles but someone always handed it back to me.

We got on the slopes around 10:30 am and surprisingly it wasn’t too crowded. Everyone was ready for a break around 1:00 and when we were done warming up the crowds had arrived. It was pretty crowded during the afternoon runs so we finished up around 5:00 pm. On the final run of the day I found a secret little wooded area and sped down it only to incur my first and only wipe out of the day. I couldn’t find the exit!

After that run we all met up by the fireplace and took this cute little photo. And then guess what happened? I lost my headband! I didn’t notice til I got to the car, so I threw my stuff in the back and went back to search. By then the sun had started to set and I was hopeless. I asked lost and found but no one had turned it in yet.

And that’s how I lost my brand new headband.

Luckily, my favorite post-skiing activity is Giordano’s pizza. And pizza we had. It made me feel better.

The Close of 2013 Part II: New Year’s at Disney World

3 Jan

We left Keli’s house at 7:30 and after a quick stop to Publix for some breakfast we pulled into Magic Kingdom about 8:15. It took about an hour and a half to get from the parking lot through the front gates but we consider ourselves lucky because rumor has it they closed the park to single-day tickets a few hours into the day due to hitting capacity. Disney added Fantasyland since I last visited (2007) and we wanted to take advantage of eating in Belle’s castle so it was our first stop. Even though it was lunch at 10:30 am it was magical to have our food delivered wherever we were sitting and to even see the rose lose its petals. The castle was beautiful and I highly recommend stopping by for lunch or even making reservations to have dinner there (they say you need to book six months in advance!).

By 1:00 pm we had only seen two attractions and we were starting to regret coming on the busiest day of all of Disney World. We met up with my friend Kristin and her family that were spending a week at Disney and it is actually our second time being at Disney at the same time (the first was a chance meeting at Epcot in 2002). We chatted while waiting in line for her daughter to meet Tiana, her final princess of the trip, and then hit up some of the smaller attractions with shorter lines (Swiss Family Robinson tree house, Tiki room, etc.). Kristin heard they were handing out hats and noise makers at 4:00 so we grabbed those and headed for our dinner (remember, we ate lunch at 10:30!). As it turns out, giving paper horns to maxed-out park full of kids eight hours before midnight is a pretty terrible idea. Kids and adults were honking and blaring those horns and driving everyone crazy. I truly feel bad for the ride attendants and other park workers.

We had a short wait for the MK classic “it’s a small world” and cashed in our fast pass for the new Little Mermaid ride and from then on it was pretty smooth sailing for the rest of the evening. We assume the responsible parents families with kids started to leave the park because we were able to squeeze in a lot more rides and attractions before finally grabbing ice cream and scouting out a place to watch the fireworks. One of the cast members suggested watching from the back of the castle in Fantasyland but we actually found a good bench/seat/ledge in the Storybook Circus (also new) right outside of the Dumbo ride and it ended up being a great spot. It was quiet and empty. Plus, I got to ride the famous flying elephants which I don’t think I have ridden since my first visit to Disney in 1990. In all, Keli and I rode almost every single ride in the park we were interested in except Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain (the lines never got shorter!).

During our day we saw three sets of fireworks; the 8:30 regular show, a quick show at 11:50, and then the countdown. The countdown was amazing. It was hard to hear in the back of the park, but the fireworks started to form numbers and soon it was obvious that it was midnight. The sky lit up and there was 360 degrees of fireworks around us. In that moment I made the annoying sound with my noise maker and didn’t regret being in the busiest happiest place on Earth.

360 degrees of Fireworks at Disney World

360 degrees of Fireworks at Disney World

After the fireworks we popped in Ariel’s Grotto (I always wanted to see what it was like!) and snapped a pic with Cinderella then redeemed our Buzz Lightyear fast passes before heading out. We left the park at 1:20 am and apparently so did the rest of the visitors. It took us over an hour to get to the car and even longer to get off of the Disney property. It was a late night!

Sadly, New Year’s Day was rainy and we stopped at Downtown Disney to see Frozen but apparently everyone had the same idea because it was sold out. We grabbed a drink, shared some appetizers and walked around before it was time for me to head to the airport.

Despite my traveling delays I feel so fortunate to have such a busy, weather-cooperating vacation!

The Close of 2013 Part I

2 Jan

I’m not going to write a 2013 recap post like all the other bloggers because 1) I’m not a real blogger and 2) I’m so bad of a non-real blogger that I haven’t written posts for all the fun stuff I’ve done.

But I have done some awesome stuff that I haven’t written about yet and I’m making it a priority to recap the most important adventures.

As I type this my eyes are trying to stay open because I got in from an epic trip to Orlando at 2:00 this morning. My flight, which was supposed to arrive at 9:00 pm, was delayed two hours in Orlando and an additional two hours once we landed in Chicago due to some crazy, snowy weather. So let’s back it up to the reason I was in Orlando: the Canes were in the Russell Athletic Bowl on Saturday, December 28. I woke up at 3:45 to catch a 6:00 flight from Chicago to Orlando (thank Loredana for the ride!) and my friend Keli picked me up. Keli and I have had some random vacation adventures so when the trip started with a trip to Target stocking up on Cool Ranch Doritos and Chex puppy chow, I knew we were in for a treat.

We headed to the parking lot to take the shuttle to the Citrus Bowl at 2:00 and found some of my friends from college that I haven’t seen in a while. It was great catching up, drinking beer, and playing bags for a few hours before the torture that was about to become the football game. Long story short, the Canes started with a 2-point safety and didn’t score again until the fourth quarter (I’m convinced Louisville’s second stringers were in). It was the same feeling as watching Notre Dame stomp all over us in 2011 at Soldier Field. I wish I could demand my money back for that ticket, because I did not see a game.

On Sunday Keli was nice enough to drive me to some friends’ from Bubbafest (recap  to come) house. There my two other friends Mitch and Melissa were waiting for me for what was originally supposed to be a 50 mile bike ride. Mother Nature had other plans so we enjoyed a tasty breakfast instead. When we were done the weather looked calmer and we ventured out on a 30 mile bike ride around some of Orlando’s well-connected trails. We are so lucky because after we pulled in and started to shower and get ready for the rest of the day it started down pouring. After we thanked the rain gods for holding out we headed over to a local sports bar and watched football and drank a lot of beer.

On Monday morning Keli had a great idea to visit Wekiwa Springs State Park just a few miles away from Orlando. The weather was overcast and chilly but after about an hour the sun came out and it was the perfect day. We hiked the nature trail to Sand lake and then took the East-West trail back to the Nature trail and completed about a 10 mile loop (estimate). Then, we rented paddleboards and paddled up the river for an hour and a half and saw turtles, deer, birds, and a gator! Luckily neither of us fell off our paddle boards into the alligator-dense water but this gator was sunning itself on a log, too. After we hustled upstream to get our boards back on time, we rinsed our feet in the natural spring water that stays a cool 72 degrees year round. We were completely exhausted after our nature-filled day. Plus, we had to prepare for what we knew would be the craziest New Year’s Eve in Orlando… Disney World… stay tuned!

Lanialoha & Aloha Lives! Concert in the Park

19 Sep

You guys! I am the worst blogger of all time! I wanted to tell you about a super fun Tuesday night concert I went to with my Uke crew. Our teacher, Lanialoha Lee, was the final performer in a Tuesday night concert series and Welles park in Lincoln Square on Tuesday, August 27 (see? Told you I’m slow!). Her group Aloha Lives! performed a ton of traditional songs and the advanced ukulele students performed as well as the advanced hula dancers. I even learned how to hula to the first song we learned in class, E Huli Makou.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous and Blair brough her cute dog (that looks like Lucy), Poncho. Honestly my favorite thing in the world Chicago is concert picnics.

Poncho, Lucy's long lost sister

Poncho, Lucy’s long lost sister

Welles Park in Lincoln Square Chicago

Welles Park in Lincoln Square

Me, learning to hula with the children

Me, learning to hula with the children