I’m a little late in posting this, but Sara attended the May Food Swap.
In exchange for:
- whole wheat honey bread (6 loaves)
- yogurt (5 14 oz jars)
- cantaloupe vanilla jam (3 4 oz and 1 8 oz jar)
- Cinnamon pecan butter
- Preserved lemons
- Overnight French boule
- Orange sea salt caramels
- Hot pepper jam
- Strawberry rhubarb orange preserves
- Potato, cheddar & chive frittata
- Rhubarb curd shortbread bars
- 2 copper river heirloom tomato plants
- 1 wapsipinicon peach tomato plant
- Garlic & oregano butter
- Plum with vanilla orchid tea jam
- Cardamom peanut butter
- Cashew butter with candied Pomegranate
- 4 chocolate peanut butter Whoopie pies
Naturally, the desserts are always the favorites at our house. In this case the Whoopie pies carried the day, with the rhubarb curd shortbread bars a close second. However, for my money, nothing beat the garlic & oregano butter / focaccia combination.
It was also a cool idea to get tomato plants. We’ve planted them in the garden, so hopefully they take off (I believe they had been started from seedlings, so two of them at least were little tiny baby tomato plants). If they do, they are certainly “worth” a lot of food compared to a loaf of bread.
Speaking of bread, that was a lot of bread! I was baking bread for 2 days, since I did 6 loaves for the swap, another two loaves for us, a couple of batches of granola, and a batch of oatmeal cookies on top just for funsies. Seems like it was worth it though, since Sara traded all the bread, including even the one that she had sliced up for samples. Besides, usually Sara makes everything for the food swap, but i do a lot of the eating, so it was probably time to pull a little weight.
As always, very glad to have an opportunity to try a bunch of unique homemade items!
I don’t consider myself or Sara to be lucky people (I mean, aside from being born in a country where people are more worried about their cell phone data plan than if they’re going to have anything to eat tonight) (which is actually kind of relevant to this post, now that I think about it). So it is always a pleasant surprise to actually win something.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, we used to do Dinner by Design and Dream Dinners to stock up food prior to having a new baby. Meez Meals is sort of similar to that, except even better: you get all the ingredients to make a home-cooked meal, but instead going somewhere and assembling the meals, they actually deliver it to your door! (and for roughly the same price)
Some people might wonder why you would pay to have someone deliver food that you then have to make yourself. It’s a valid question, I suppose, but it’s sort of like having all of the upsides of cooking yourself (adjust the salt, add chicken, make it spicier, etc.), without the downsides (chopping all the veggies, having a million different preparation dishes, running out of a key ingredient, etc.). And the food they offer is much more healthful than your average take-out meal.
Some people might also wonder about the price. If you’re cooking it yourself at home anyway, isn’t it a little pricey compared to home cooked meals? Well yes, it is, but it’s not comparable to making dinner at home; you have to compare it to going out to eat. It requires infinitely less effort than planning a meal, shopping for the food, and doing all the preparations.
Still, it’s a fair criticism. It’s not cheap, especially for someone like us who very rarely go out to eat. I wouldn’t advocate abandoning all food-making and only eating from Meez Meals from now on, but I will say that the week we got our 3 free meals, it was a life saver. It could certainly be invaluable now and again. There is no price too high to place for not having to plan meals, and it’s also nice to add a little variety into dinnertime to avoid getting stuck in a rut.
Alas, I wish I could tell you that the food itself knocked my socks off, but I thought it was only okay. However, my main complaint was that a lot of it was somewhat bland, which is probably something I could actually do something about. Oliver, on the other hand, couldn’t stuff spaghetti squash in his mouth fast enough, literally, eventually abandoning the taco part altogether:
Oh, two more things I want to mention!
First, we saw some complaints that the food comes in a million plastic bags, which was true, and it did kind of drive me and (especially) Sara crazy. Sara boycotts entire brands for using too much packaging. However, we heard that in Chicago the bags are recyclable. We haven’t confirmed that yet, which is why we have a huge stack of what looks like trash sitting next to the dishes.
Second, this email:
How’s that for customer service?? We found the portions were more than generous and had plenty for leftovers, including the Moroccan Tacos. So that was really going above and beyond if you ask me.
So anyway, special thanks to Meez Meals and West of the Loop for hooking us up. We’ll have to do it again some time (I mean, except not for free) (unless you’re open to that, because I would definitely not turn you down).
Evie has been doing a lot of writing lately. They say a writer writes what they know…
I’m Poor. Please Help. 2 Dollars Every Day.
I think a lot about the kids growing up in Chicago, and what a different life they’re going to have. We see a lot of “picnickers” (as we like to call them) in our neighborhood. Homeless people and panhandlers are just part of Evie’s surroundings. Normal.
On the way to Evie’s school, we go under a highway overpass. Beyond the fence is what can only be described as a homeless shanty town. There are mattresses and semi-permanent structures, even a grill. In the limited time that we spend at that intersection a few times a week, we’ve seen a lot of activity. Homeless people climbing in and out through gaps in the fence. The one homeless guy who sits on the corner every morning and takes in tons of cash, food, and cigarettes. Seriously, we sit at that light for a few minutes, max, and in that time he probably takes in at least $20, every day. When he gets food he puts it in a community pile for other homeless guys to pick through. One time we even saw the members of the community furiously shoving mattresses out under the fence on one side as the police were coming in on a raid from the other side.
Evie hasn’t asked me many questions about all this, considering. However, I know it weighs heavily on her mind. Obviously, given the picture. I don’t really know what I’d say to her. “Be compassionate about your fellow man, but ignore these ones and don’t make eye contact.” How do you explain that? I’m not even sure how I feel about it myself.
So, long story short, if you see Evie panhandling on the street, please help her out. No reason we can’t put her learned skills to good use.
Time again for a Chicago Food Swap wrap up! (You can see previous food swap posts here.)
In exchange for:
- 4 half-pints Mimosa Jelly
- 1 1/2 pint and 2 4 oz. jars Pineapple Jam with Chinese 5 Spice
- 4 pints homemade, Whole Milk Yogurt
- 2 Blue Moon Cupcakes
- Cranberry Pepper Jelly
- Cinnamon Pecan Butter
- Salsa Verde
- Blood Orange Marmalade
- Macadamia Nut Caramel Corn
- Meyer Lemon Marmalade
- Cranberry Curd
- Homemade Granola
- Cherry Pie Filling
- Pumpkin Butter
This month’s swap was at Katherine Anne Confections, so in addition to the above, we also tried 3 delicious varieties of fancy-schmancy caramels : rosemary sea-salt, chocolate walnut, and vanilla. Believe me, they didn’t last long. I was very suspicious about the rosemary sea-salt, because sweet and salty is *not* my thing. But actually, it wasn’t bad. I would probably choose one of the other ones personally, but after trying it I can definitely say I would choose eating a rosemary sea-salt caramel over not eating caramel any day of the week.
This time around, Sara went in targeting marmalade, and ended up with not one, but two of them! I call that success We haven’t tried any yet. Sara said the salsa verde was the best thing she tried at the swap, but I haven’t tried that yet either (Soon, my sweet salsa verde. Soon.)
There were a lot of baked goods this time, which isn’t bad, but it’s not really what we’re in the market for. We make lots of baked goods at home, so they’re just not as exciting. Canned jams, however, seems to be what we are in the market for. Right now we have something like 8 different open jars of spreads in the fridge, with a dozen or so more in the pantry. And they are all wonderful.
I should also mention that both of our jams were delicious and interesting too. I almost didn’t want Sara to trade them! Sara bought the Chinese 5 spice powder from the last food swap, and I hadn’t been super fond of it. It’s very anise-y, and it kind of takes over whatever it is in. But something about this jam really was the perfect use for it. The flavor combination was awesome. The mimosa jelly is really good too, although I’m not sure the champagne really made much of a difference (other than being able to say it’s mimosa jelly instead of just regular old “orange”, which is non-trivial).
Sara reports that after her 3rd swap, she’s starting to recognize people and just generally feel like she’s not the new kid on the block anymore, (Look, it was a phrase before the band came around, that’s why they used that as their name! No judging.) but more like she’s one of the grizzled veterans.
The kids and I are definitely still excited about getting all of the delicious food, that’s for sure!
Today is January 29th, and it is 60 degrees. In Chicago. So far this winter, we have had a total of one “snowstorm” resulting in a grand total of 1.1 inches so far for the year. That was a record setting 335 days without snow. Just to put that into perspective, Chicago normally averages 36.7 inches of snow per year.
If I had never heard of global warming, I might just chalk that up to, “huh, unusually warm winter this year.” I have heard of global warming, but I’m trying keep that in perspective and fight my natural impulse to say, “ZOMG IT’S THE END OF DAYZZZZZ!”
The thing is, we’re not talking a “unusually warm winter” here. This is not the first 60 degree day this winter, and, for all intents and purposes, we’ve had no snow whatsoever this year. And this is on top of last winter, which was also “unusually warm”. They kids are wondering why we haven’t been able to go sledding, or build snowmen, or make snow angels.
I’m no expert on global warming, but even an idiot like me has to wonder what’s going on. Is this just a two-year fluke, or a sign of some larger trend? I’m reminded of when I attended The Great Climate Debate, all the way back in 2008. The thing that struck me then, and strikes me now, was that the experts on both sides of the debate agreed global warming exists, and their argument was not the same as what the general public believes the issues to be.
But even this guy, who had incredible credentials, is at the forefront of this movement, and who is rabid in his belief, agrees global warming exists and we are causing at least part of it.
I know anecdotal evidence is not evidence, but 60 degrees in January is at least remarkable. I don’t know if there are still people who think global warming isn’t real, or not. But my opinion on it remains unchanged from 3 years ago:
Whether our pollution is causing global warming or not, I think we all know we shouldn’t be polluting. So we should stop polluting based on its own merits whether it causes global warming or not. It kind of reminds me back when people used to argue about whether smoking causes cancer or not. Who cares? It does a lot of other bad things and you know you shouldn’t be smoking! So if there is even a chance global warming is caused by us, that is just one more reason on top of all the other reasons to stop polluting. And if that is the final straw that makes someone stop doing it, then great!
Sara and I recently found some time to go see The Book of Mormon.
I love musicals, but it’s much harder to get to them now that we have kids. I realized the last time we saw a show was The Addams Family, which was almost exactly 3 years ago. I liked Book of Mormon much more than Addams Family.
I would recommend it to anybody who doesn’t mind a little profanity. It starts slow, but by the 4th song or so (Specifically “Hasa Diga Eebowai”), there’s no question this is a show by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the guys from South Park (actually, this made me think more of Team America: World Police). Blasphemy is probably too light of a word for it. Considering musicals are generally thought to be family friendly, just be prepared for it and you’ll have a good time.
I don’t think Stone and Parker ever get enough credit for being clever. Yes, they try to intentionally shock you, but that’s not all they are. If it was, South Park wouldn’t be going into its 15th season. Book of Mormon is exactly the same way: there are cheap laughs because they are shocking (AIDS jokes, baby rape jokes, frog rape jokes, dysentery jokes, etc.), but there’s also a larger picture behind it all (tolerance, learning to be yourself, hard work pays off, religion can be silly but we love it anyway, etc.). That’s the part that makes this all work. In fact, if you take away a few small parts, Book of Mormon works surprisingly well as a traditional musical.
Knowing who made this show, I was wondering how badly Mormons would take this show. So I was pretty surprised to find 3 full page ads in the program for the LDS Church. And actually, having seen it, I have to say it’s a lot harsher on Ugandans than it is on Mormons. Sure they tweak their nose a little bit over some of the stranger beliefs, but at the end of the day the Mormons come out looking pretty good. Quite frankly, if you look very hard into any religion, you can pull out all kinds of weird stuff and make it sound ridiculous. I hear worse about Catholicism every day. If the worse you can say about a religion is, “They’re overly nice people who help the world, but have you seen their silly underwear? And, come on, they can’t drink coffee??” then I guess that’s not so bad. (Note: Uh, yeah, there’s worse things they say about the religion, especially in relationship to repressing gays and people of color, but I’m making a point here.)
In summary, the show was really good. It was blatantly offensive at times, witty at others, laugh-out-loud funny, and had catchy songs. What more could you ask for from a musical? (Okay, I guess you could ask it to be a little more politically correct, but if you’re asking that, then this is probably not for you.)
- There is a couple of Dr. Pepper billboards that I see on my way to work. Basically, they show the torso of a man wearing a generic Dr. Pepper-colored tee-shirt and holding a can of Dr. Pepper. Over the tee-shirt they wrote (in a completely different font), “I’m a Bears fan” and then put a little Bears logo in the corner. Who do you think you’re fooling? Aside from the fact that Dr. Pepper thinks I’m dumb enough to go, “Oh, they say they’re connected to the sports team I like, I guess I’ll start buying that now!” the very nature of the generic, slap-dash, non-specific billboard only serves to highlight the fact that Dr. Pepper is a ruthless, bloodsucking corporation who cares not a whit about me and my fan loyalties. This is practically the photo negative of the feeling they’re trying to engender. At least spend the time, jeez.
- Honking. No joke, someone honks at me every single day driving around Chicago. Usually it’s when I’m waiting to turn on green and someone behind me honks to encourage me to go. I cannot stress how rude this is. Usually when they honk I can’t actually go. It’s one thing if I’m not paying attention or something and you draw my attention to the road. But if I’m obviously paying attention (I’m creeping my car forward), then you are saying, “I know you don’t want to go, but I’m smarter than you and I know better than you do.” For example, the other day there was a long line of people who got off the train crossing the street, and someone several cars back started honking. From where they were, they probably couldn’t see the people crossing the street, so they didn’t know that if I went I’d be plowing through a solid wall of bodies. And that is precisely my point: from four cars back you have no idea what is going on up by me and why I’m not going. So now you’re actually enticing me to commit a crime, possibly murder. Let’s all settle down a little bit, shall we?
- Speaking of honking, I can’t stand people honking to get someone to come out to the car. In this day and age, when everybody has a cell phone, there’s really just no excuse for this. The 50 condos worth of people on our street would appreciate it if you would give your party a call and keep it between the two of you, instead of including us. And if they don’t come out after the 10th honk, your honks are obviously not hurrying them. I think we can say pretty conclusively that they know you’re out there. (I certainly know you’re out there, and I’m not even expecting you.) Maybe, just maybe, they’ve got something going on that’s more important than you. You’re going to feel pretty dumb when you find out they were lying there dying, but you couldn’t bother to get out of your car. Or maybe your honking is causing them to go slower just to spite you. That’s what I’d do if I knew anybody rude enough to do this to me.
- The weather report. I used to never check the weather, but now that I check it every day, I know less about the weather. Seriously, I gain more information by just peeking out the window. The official report always puts at least 10% chance of rain, just to hedge their bets. 100% chance of rain? How can you ever be 100% sure of anything, especially given your record weather reporting website? Well, guess what? IT DIDN’T RAIN. So thanks for nothing.
- Those super loud “vortex” hand dryers. Yeah, maybe my hands might be one molecule more dry than with the old fashioned hand dryers, but guess what? I value my hearing more than semi-dry hands.
The last final hurrah for jury duty is a site I want to recommend, ParkWhiz.
The site is simple: type in where you want to park and when, and they’ll show you a map of different options and prices. You select the one you want, pay online, and print out your confirmation / receipt. When you show up at the garage, your spot is reserved. Instead of paying, you just give them your receipt and that’s that.
I was veeeery skeptical of this. It just seemed too neat and tidy to actually work. However, I used the service a total of I believe seven times at two different garages over the course of jury duty, and I never had any trouble. Not only that, but I also saved a ton of money! I never paid more than $13 to park in the heart of downtown Chicago, despite a lot of the other jurors paying $25 and even $35 for a day. So if we assume I saved an average of $17 a day, that’s $119 saved!!
If you’re coming to Chicago for the day (I’m looking at you Wisconsin relatives), there’s no reason not to use this site (this is a totally unsolicited endorsement, and I am not receiving anything from ParkWhiz for it. I really just think it’s that good). Get your parking taken care of ahead of time, and not only save money but also the stress of trying to find parking. The confirmation comes with explicit instructions on how to get to the garage, instructions on what to do when you get to the garage (i.e. “Tell them you’ve pre-paid with ParkWhiz”), and even a photograph of what the entrance to the garage looks like.
It looks like they are in a lot of other cities besides Chicago as well. Use them without hesitation!
Sara attended her 2nd Chicago Food Swap (you can read about the first one here). This was about a week and a half ago, but I’m just getting around to posting it now!
In exchange for:
- Sweet and sour pickled red onions (4 pints and 5 half-pints)
- Pomegranate molasses (5 4 oz jars)
- Balsamic raspberry jam (1 half-pint and 1 4 oz jar)
In case you can’t see everything in the picture, the full list is:
- Amaretti ginger bars
- Spicy chai concentrate
- Jamaican sorrel
- Coffee liqueur
- Chocolate liqueur
- Fig’n tipsy jam
- Peaches N scream jam
- Strawberry applesauce
- Vegan banana bread
- Brown soda bread
- Pumpkin butter
- Mint-chip cookies (x2)
- Polish farmers cheese (twarog)
- Hot fudge sauce
- Quince paste
- Spicy honey mustard
I think that we have tried most of the stuff (although we haven’t tried the sorrel yet, which I am particularly looking forward to, but we plan to try that and the chai tonight). Nothing has been bad, but the Amaretti-ginger bars in particular were mind-bogglingly good. O.M.G. good.
Just like last time I am struck by the sheer amount of interesting things to try we got in exchange for things that we already have a lot of. I’m telling you, this is the best deal in town.
Also, coming up with interesting and attractive things to bring has been more fun that I would have anticipated, and has been pushing us to make more interesting things than we otherwise might. As soon as Sara gets home from the food swap, she already starts coming up with ideas for the next one.
And I just get to sit back and enjoy.
Over the weekend, we checked out Chicago institution Hot Doug’s, the Sausage Superstore and Encased Meat Emporium. I have to say that I never really felt like I needed to go to a hot dog restaurant, famous or not, but Hot Doug’s totally exceeded my expectations.
For out of towners a “Chicago-style” hotdog typically consists of a hot dog (obviously) topped with mustard, onions, neon green relish, tomatoes, a full sized pickle spear, and celery salt on a poppy seed bun.
I’ve never actually partaken of a Chicago-style dog, and I’m always interested in trying the food-of-that-place, so knew I had to try that out. Additionally, we got a brat with sauerkraut, a specialty dog that was Smoked Crayfish and Pork Sausage with Cajun Remoulade and Goat Cheese, and some duck fat fries to top us off.
The hardest part about Hot Doug’s was the line to get in. It wasn’t as bad as we’ve heard it could be, but two hungry kids don’t want to stand around and wait when the food is just right there. If I had to do it over again, I would go earlier in the day, so the kids weren’t so hungry to begin with.
Usually going out to eat with Evie is a complete waste of time. She likes the idea of going out to eat, but it turns out she actually hates food so there’s pretty much no chance she’s going to like any of the options. However, you can’t get more up her alley than a hot dog and french fry restaurant, so there you go.
Ollie, as usual, is just happy to have food. Any food. Our waiter was extremely skeptical about Ollie’s “with everything”, and Ollie proved him wrong by eating the whole thing, followed by a quarter of the crayfish and goat cheese dog. He loved both.
I have to say, I was impressed with Chicago-style hot dogs. The dog itself was good, but all of the crazy toppings do combine into something new and delicious in my mouth. I thought the plain old “with everything” dog was the best of all the different kinds we tried. Although the other ones were good, I would probably just stick with that next time.
I would certainly go here again, especially to take someone from out of town (although it’s pretty far from our place to get there).
And hey, Evie said it was the best restaurant she’s ever been to, what other recommendation do you need?
Two Thumbs Up
Sara participated in the Chicago Food Swap. You can read a recap here. The basic idea is, you show up with homemade food, everyone else shows up with homemade food, and you swap. You can basically bring anything, but the more desirable your trade is, the more you can dictate what you are going to get in return. So there is some incentive to come up with something interesting, or unique.
For her swap, Sara brought:
- 6 half-pints of honey apple butter
- 4 half-pints homemade ketchup
- 2 pints of tomatoes from the garden
And in return she received this:
For those of you who can’t make out the labels, that is:
- full sized Spinach Gruyere quiche
- ~2 cups hot nuts
- half-pint pickled fennel
- half-pint cranberry sauce
- half-pint tomato jalapeno peach jam
- half-pint pear ginger jam
- half-pint autumn apple-cran jam
- half-pint whole cranberry jam
- half-pint ginger spice syrup
- pint sweet potato bisque w/ brown butter croutons
- s’mores kit w/ homemade marshmallows and homemade graham crackers
- small loaf of savory monkey bread w/ bacon, caramelized onions & Gruyere
In other words, a pretty good haul!
The apple butter was a big hit (a whole quiche for a half-pint of apple butter??), which was kind of nice to hear. It’s fantastic to take something we have a lot of already, and trade it for a lot of interesting things that we can try. I think Sara is already making plans for what she wants to bring to the next one.
So far I can vouch for the quiche, soup, monkey bread, hot nuts, cranberry sauce, and the s’mores kit. You can guess which one the kids were most excited about.
I was actually surprised at how excited Evie was about the whole thing. She was dancing around excited, unable to wait as Sara pulled each new treasure from the box. This is a girl who does *not* like to try new things!
(I suppose I should say, she does not like to try new non-dessert things.)
Today I interrupted two people stealing the refrigerator and stove that someone illegally dumped in the alley next to our condo.
They looked guilty, I wanted to help them get it up on their truck.
“Uh oh,” said Sara, “The chickens have escaped.”
We were on our way to run an errand, and we saw that there were chickens wandering in the road. We had a pretty good idea where they came from, since we know there are some chickens kept in a building nearby who occasionally make an appearance at the farmer’s market.
I sighed. I was somewhat inclined to just say, “Huh, that’s interesting,” and keep going, but I knew I wasn’t going to do that. If I had chickens that needed wrangling, I’d certainly appreciate it if someone wrangled them. So I jumped out of the car and went to look for somebody.
The gate was open, so I could certainly see how the chickens got out. But after calling, “Hello?” a few times, nobody seemed to be around. I knocked on a few doors and even tried around the corner, but there just didn’t seem to be anybody about. At this point I again considered just cutting my losses and leaving. Surely I had done enough, and more than some would have. But I was also fairly sure that if I didn’t wrangle those chickens, nobody was going to wrangle them.
I took a run at the chickens and they sort of moved in the right direction. I probably could have picked them up, but I’m not exactly trained in it, and one time in West Virginia I saw a kid with the unlikely name of “Chicken Boy” almost lose an eye to a chicken scratch from one of his own chickens. And his name was Chicken Boy for christsakes, so I kind of thought the people would probably rather I didn’t try.
Luckily for me, I have a lot of experience herding my cat into areas she doesn’t want to go to (especially opening the bathroom door in the morning without letting her out to go wake up the kids), and this was kind of the same. Both the chickens and the cat have this same thing where they sort of pretend they just happened to decide to go in the direction you chased them of their own accord, but then try to veer to one side or the other with a wounded pride and hope you’ve suddenly forgotten about them.
I also made a few, “Ha!” and “chuck chuck chuck” sounds at them, and also sort of talked to them. I’m not sure if that helped or not, but it seemed like the appropriate thing to do. In any case, they all started moving in the right direction. I think they probably just thought, “Oh my god, some kind of weirdo is out here shouting at chickens! Lets get back inside before something bad happens!”, but whatever the reason, I felt unreasonably proud once I got them all in the yard, like a cowboy after a long day of ropin’ steers (but not like a Chicken Boy, because I also had both my eyes).
As I was just closing the gate, I saw someone emerge from the building. “Hello?” I called, and the man turned to me. He said something like, “Yeaup,” and waved. ”Your chickens escaped! I put them back in for you!” I said, beaming with pride. ”Yeaup,” he answered, waving his hand again.
I don’t know if he didn’t understand me or what, but I kind of felt like I deserved a little more than a non-committal “yeaup”. A thank you perhaps, or at least a concerned look on his face or something.
Oh well. Just a day in the life of an urban chicken wrangler. We don’t do it for the respect, ma’am, that’s just our job.
::slow walk into the sunset::
Oh the time I have had, my friends. I apologize in advance; this is going to be a long one.
On the evening of Labor Day, my car died in the middle lane of traffic on a busy street. I put on my 4-ways, but I was causing a pretty major traffic disturbance. People were honking and driving around me. I knew it wasn’t a good idea to leave my car there for very long, but I also had Evie in the car, and I didn’t feel like it was a particularly safe situation. I wasn’t sure if I could push the car by myself, but I didn’t really see any other choice, so one way or the other I was moving that car.
I braced my shoulder in the open door so I could reach in to steer and started pushing. Oh-so-slowly I got it going, and I crossed over a few lanes of traffic. I needed to make it around the corner to pull it safely out of the way, but the light wasn’t with me so I had to stop and wait. There must have been a little depression in the road there, because when the light changed I couldn’t get it going again. I started rocking it back and forth and eventually got it up and over the dip and back on track.
No one bothered to jump out of their car and help push (thanks citizens of Chicago!), but I did get it over to the side and out of harm’s way, even if it wasn’t in a legal spot.
Of course, then Evie and I had to wait for a tow truck to show up, and since it was Labor Day I had to wait quite awhile just to get a hold of someone. After finally getting off the phone with insurance, the tow truck dispatch said it would over an hour before they could get here. Luckily, when I said I had a kid with me, they ended up getting there in 30 minutes instead.
I had the car towed to a shop in my neighborhood that was only a few blocks away. Normally I have my car stuff done out by work, but that was very far away, so it really didn’t make sense to have it towed all the way out there. I had gone to this little repair shop attached to the Mobile gas station a few times before for very minor things and hadn’t had any trouble.
This time I had trouble. Lots of it.
But first things first, we had a funeral to attend in Michigan the next day. So we had to get a rental car, and I told the car people we’d be out of town for two days, but I could pick the car up on Thursday. The rental car and funeral part went very smoothly, so I felt like this whole ordeal was actually going to be relatively painless.
Unfortunately, when I called the shop up on Thursday they hadn’t started working on it yet. This meant I had to stay home from work that day, after missing two days for the funeral. It quickly became apparent that unless I was physically on the phone with them, they weren’t working on it. This caused me to call them every couple of hours to get an “update” on how it was coming.
Finally, I called them at about 7 p.m. and the car was ready. However, this conversation took place:
Guy: “My friend, how much did I tell you this was going to cost?”
Me: “Uh…you said $575.”
Guy: “Oh yeah. Okay, mi amigo, do you have any cash?”
Me: “Some, I guess.”
Guy: “If you bring $40 in cash, I’ll take $35 off, give it to you for $540.”
Now this was obviously some shady dealings, but then I decided I didn’t care. If that’s the way the guy wants to run his business, I guess that’s alright with me. There might be some risk for me on that $40, but mostly it’s risky for him to have shady deals going on with his business. Anyway, luckily this didn’t come back to haunt me, but I include it just as an example of how shady this place is.
Alright, so I show up to pick up my car, pay, and start to drive away. Immediately I notice that my check engine light is on, so I pull back into the shop.
Me: “The check engine light is still on. I guess the code needs to be cleared?”
Guy: “No, the guy with the computer isn’t here. You’ll have to come back tomorrow.”
Me: “Well, I can’t take the car while the check engine light is on.”
Guy: “No, no, no, don’t worry my friend. I checked everything out, everything is fine. I checked the oil. Just come back tomorrow, 10:00. The guy will be here, he’ll clear the code.”
I wasn’t too thrilled with that, but what was I going to do? So I took the car. The next day was Friday, so I put the kids in the car and we took it over there at 10.
Me: “Hi, I’m here to get my code cleared on my car?”
Guy: “Yeah, okay. The guy’s not here.”
Me, starting to get upset: “You told me to be here at 10. I’m here at 10.”
Guy: “Yeah, you’ll have to leave your car here.”
Me, gesturing to the kids: “I can’t leave the car here, I have my kids with me. This is my only car.”
Eventually the guy made a phone call and told me to wait for 30 minutes. I was feeling distinctly jerked around at this point, so we left and played at a nearby park, before coming back. The guy was there and he read the code before clearing it. The code said that the evaporation sensor was bad, but I’ve seen that code before: that’s the code you get if you leave your gas cap a little loose. So it made sense to me, because I knew they had to drop the gas tank to put in the new fuel pump. So if leaving the gas cap open and letting air in could trip that sensor, then it seemed reasonable that actually removing the gas tank would let air in and trip that sensor. I figured it was probably normal and they just forgot to reset it after they were done working on it. I thought that was the end of it.
That Saturday we were actually driving up to Wisconsin, and right away I noticed that the check engine light was back on again. However, the car was driving without any noticeable problems, so we went ahead and went anyway. After the various experiences I had had thus far, I really didn’t want to go back to the same place again, so on Monday I first called my usual repair place. They agreed with my self-diagnosis that something was probably not sealed or connected properly, but said they’d have to charge $115 to figure out what, so I should probably take it back to the original place and force them to do the job properly. So I called the Mobile back and the guy told me the soonest he could take a look at it was Thursday at 10 a.m. So I continued to drive all week with the light on.
On Thursday I was prepared to do whatever it took to get this resolved. I had to stay home from work for yet another day (it would have been 3 at this point, except I was already home on that Friday), so I really wanted to get this resolved. I decided that I would just wait there while they repaired my car, no matter how long it took. There were two reasons for this, 1) they seemed to work better when they had a reminder, and 2) I knew there would be an argument, and I didn’t want them to do something to my car afterwards.
Unfortunately, it went exactly as I expected it to.
In retrospect, the initial posturing was kind of funny, how we were both doing that thing where we’re smiling at each other but carefully choosing our words to make our position clear, like
Guy: “Okay, mi amigo, you want me to look at the new problem with the engine light?”
Me: “It says here on my receipt that all parts and labor are guaranteed.”
Guy: “Oh, are you having a problem with your fuel pump?”
Me: “Yes, according to the light on my dashboard.”
Unfortunately, that didn’t last long, and we quickly escalated into shouting. His basic position was that he couldn’t possibly have affected the evaporation sensor by replacing the fuel pump, and my basic position was that it would be awfully coincidental that this totally unrelated problem happened while it was at their shop. In addition, there was a bit of a disagreement about when the work should be done, his basic position being never, and my basic position being right now.
Even though I knew 100% that they had caused this problem, I had no way to prove it (something that he pointed out many times). This is what makes the whole thing so frustrating; you’re being done an injustice, and there’s almost nothing you can do about it. And they weren’t even entertaining the possibility that they could have done it. How nice it must be to be so confident that you couldn’t possibly have made a mistake.
I had arrived precisely at the agreed upon time of 10:00, but the guy there claimed I must have set that up with someone else, because he couldn’t possibly do it at 10. I had never seen anybody else at the shop, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately for him, I didn’t really care who I had set up the appointment with: I was there now for the third time, a week and a half after I had originally dropped my car off, and I wasn’t leaving until it was resolved. I also graciously offered to talk to this other guy, his boss, or anybody else I needed to talk to in order to get this resolved. I also super-graciously offered to take my money back if he wasn’t able to fix my problem.
I parked myself in the corner, which made him very upset, but what was he going to do? I think maybe he intended to make me wait as long as possible, but then I unnerved him by knitting, so he broke down and put the car up on the lift. He explained to me how the sensor giving the error and the fuel tank weren’t even remotely connected, despite the hose I could see running from one to the next (and which, by the way, I knew to be false anyway or else how could leaving your gas cap open trip that sensor unless there was some connection?)
Finally, after an hour or so, he said the boss had to order a part, and I would have to leave and come back when they had the part.
Me: “And you’ll fix it at no extra cost?”
::Guy, giving me a hard stare for probably 30 seconds::
Guy, sighing: “At no extra cost.”
It somewhat seemed like a victory, but I was also disappointed that even after all that, I wasn’t able to get everything wrapped up. Now I had to come back yet another day, and every time I even thought about the car or the repair shop, I felt sick to my stomach. Although I can be a real pain in the ass when I have to be, I absolutely hate doing it. I hate it. I mean, I’m sure nobody likes it (or at least most of us don’t, I’ve seen some people who I’m pretty sure actually enjoy it), but it was just the last thing on earth I wanted to do. I almost just wanted to say forget the whole thing and just go pay to take it somewhere else, but it was the principle of the whole thing. On the other hand, were principles really worth losing 2 years off the end of my life from worry?
I called later in the day, and they said to bring it in on Tuesday at 8, because they wouldn’t have the part until Monday. They also made it a condition that I couldn’t sit and wait for it, I’d have to leave it. As I said, they were pretty uncomfortable with me sitting there (or maybe they were afraid I was going to knit again). I was a little nervous about this, but I got a sense that I was pushing them pretty far, and they needed at least a little victory. So I let that one go.
I stayed home from work yet another day, and dropped the car off at 9 (because when I called on Monday to make sure they had the part, they said they weren’t going to be getting it until Tuesday at 8). I had been hoping maybe they could get it taken care of right away and I could still make it to work, but then they told me “afternoon”. When I pressed for what time in the afternoon I should be there to pick it up, they said, “5 or 6″. You know, 5 or 6 in the afternoon. Well, I needed to pick Evie up from school, so I told them I had to be there at 5 (which meant paying for aftercare, but I didn’t get into that…I just wanted my stinkin’ car fixed!) and they said, “I’ll try to have it done by then.”
I did not have very high hopes. Excuse me for doubting.
Finally, I called at 3:30 and they said it was fixed. I walked back to the shop, psyching myself up the whole way for another round of arguing about whether or not I would have to pay. Truth be told, I brought some cash with me, since I knew that had special allure for them. I figured that I had saved $35 originally, so I would pay up to $40 in cash if it meant that I could just end all of this.
It didn’t come to that.
The boss was there and he gave me a little talk, but they gave me the keys and didn’t mention payment. I think the boss was trying to intimidate me, but there was a bit of a language barrier, so it didn’t come off as very intimidating since I had to keep saying, “What? I’m sorry, what?” We finally left it as the evap sensor must have ruined itself, but they did me such a nice favor by fixing it for me, and I shouldn’t really bother coming back there again. As far as I was concerned, if the problem was fixed they could say whatever they want, and they didn’t need to worry about me coming back anyway.
In any case, I took my car, with no check engine light, and went home.
Sooooo, anybody have a good repair shop in the neighborhood? You might say I could use a new place.
Get out the bathing suits
and the sunscreen
Have some fun
and eat ice cream.
Walk to 57th street beach and buy ice cream / gelato at 57th street cafe after
Maybe because this one seemed so straightforward I wasn’t really as prepared as I should have been. So we left the house on our adventure and I forgot our sunglasses, the camera, and the sand toys. Good work me! So I had to resort to taking pictures on my phone.
We had a ton of fun at the beach. We live within walking distance of a beach, and yet we practically never go. The beach is a lot more fun than going to the pool, because you get waves and sand. Ollie loves to play in the sand and never gets tired of it. Also, even though neither of the kids are really the kind of kids who dive and play in the water, we did have a lot of fun fighting and punching the waves. The beach is pretty shallow for a long ways out, so it gives both kids a lot of area they can play in. Both kids got knocked over by waves on occasion, which they didn’t appreciate, but overall we had more laughs than tears.
Afterwards we walked over to the cafe to get some ice cream. We got cups instead of cones, and I chose butter pecan. As we sat outside and ate ice cream, I noticed there was a swirl of bright red cherry syrup running through the middle of mine. “Huh, that’s weird, I didn’t expect cherry syrup,” I thought, and continued eating. Suddenly I noticed that I could feel some kind of flap in my mouth. ”Evie, is there something wrong with my mouth?” I asked. “Daddy!” she shrieked, her eyes going wide, “Your mouth is bleeding!” It turns out that my spoon had little pieces of razor-sharp plastic flashing along the edges, and every time I slid it into my mouth it sliced a little strip off my lip.
In other words, it wasn’t cherry syrup.
Long story short, we all had a great time with Friday of Fun #3, and watch out for dangerous plastic spoons.
The other day, we were walking around Chicago and we happened upon this:
Yes, that is a fountain that looks like an enormous pile of poop. And aptly named too:
(I only wish I had a better camera)
After some quick googling, I discovered that it is dedicated to all the neighborhood dogs and their owners who don’t pick up after them.
Only in Chicago my friends.
As you have most likely heard, the Chicago public school teachers are on strike.
You never realize how many schools there are, until they are surrounded by picketing teachers. It seems like everywhere we go there are teachers all over the place. I’m no stranger to strikes, but usually they are in one particular location, not everywhere you look. Even if there are just a few people at each location, it makes the strike seem absolutely huge.
Is it weird to say that seeing all the striking workers makes me feel nostalgic?
My dad is, was, and always will be a union man. He is uniformly and unquestioningly for any union that is striking. If he lived in Chicago, I have no doubt he’d join the picket line. I remember once when the union projectionists were striking, my dad would not set foot in the movie theater. He would drop us off and pick us up, but he would be caught dead before he would cross a picket line to see a movie. You’d be surprised at how often the topic of strikes could come up to a kid, but with my dad, the idea of it was always there, running just beneath the surface. Some kids went to summer camp; I went to union camp. They sang kumbaya, we sang “Solidarity Forever”.
I’m not like my dad; I don’t automatically accept that unions are always right and companies are always evil entities ready to gouge the worker if only given half a chance (coincidentally, a lot of them happen to be evil entities ready to gouge the worker if given half a chance, but I’m eternally optimistic). Unfortunately, I think the truth is more complicated: both sides are right, and also wrong. People deserve to be treated with respect at work. On the other hand, you can’t always squeeze blood from a stone. Both sides are stubborn. Both sides are a little bit unreasonable.
Right or wrong, there’s something comforting in seeing arms linked in solidarity for a common cause, whatever that cause is.
Or maybe that’s just my dad talking.
A short walk from our house lives the “single largest musical instrument ever built”. I guess it’s one of those things that’s too close to home, so you never appreciate it.
It was the last weekend of their summer concert series, and Sara said we should go check it out. I have to admit, I was a little reluctant. It just sort of seemed like a big to do, packing a picnic lunch and climbing all those stairs, not to mention that the kids were in particularly bad moods that day. All that just to see some bells?
I have to say, I totally had to eat my words.
Hiking up to the tiny little “performance room” to see the bells played was totally worth carrying Oliver up the 271 steps it took to get there. Seeing it played really was amazing. The tour guide said that the Carillon Bells were a “percussion instrument” and that was absolutely correct. I imagined someone playing a simple keyboard, but in actuality there are little mechanical wooden levers that must be struck. In order to play, you are literally striking the bells, and the harder you hit the levers, the louder the note.
The carillonist, James Fackenthal, did an amazing job, pounding away the 100 tons of bronze at an absolutely frantic pace, fists and sweat flying. I can’t really describe what is like seeing such an interesting and masterful performance in such an intimate room, high above the city of Chicago, for the price of $3. (that’s $3 total for all of us)
Even the kids enjoyed it, especially Oliver. At first we were sitting in front of the control console, and Oliver kept leaning around back to sneak peeks at Mr. Fackenthal playing. Evie enjoyed it, but after a few songs she was ready to move on. I think Oliver would have stayed and watched the entire concert.
Afterwards, we hiked up a few more stairs to the very top of the bell tower for some amazing views, before going back down to the bottom and listening to the rest of the concert from the ground. Even that seemed intimate, since the immense Rockefeller Chapel dwarfed the picnickers spread out in the grass below.
For anybody in the neighborhood, make sure you make it up to the top to see the performance at least once. Highly recommended.
Based on Sara’s giddy attitude for the last two days and the fact that she asked me if she “looked alright” before leaving tonight, I’m fairly certain she’s cheating on me with the Chicago Yarn Crawl.
And judging by the credit card statement, they had a pretty good time!
Hey, look kids! A firetruck is going by!
Wow, look it’s coming right by us!
It’s turning on our street.
Hey, look, it’s stopping in front of our building…
Hey, look kids! The man across the street got stabbed!
(I didn’t actually say the last part, I just told them the nice firemen were helping a man who got hurt. I didn’t specify how.)
Sara heard some yelling from outside, but didn’t think too much of it. Still, she was mildly curious, so as she was going downstairs she peered out one of the windows to see what was going on. Our basement has those little half windows up at head level, so when Sara looked out she was eye level with a man on the ground with a police officer on top of him. For several long moments they made direct eye contact, not more than ten feet apart.
“Shane,” she said, “uh…you might want to come here and see this.”
I wonder what he was thinking as he stared into Sara’s eyes? Was he silently pleading for help? Was he feeling remorse from some crime? Was he ashamed to be seen in such an awkward position? Did he feel contempt to see someone who hadn’t had to deal with the kinds of things he’s had to deal with in his life peeking out from behind the curtains?
After he was handcuffed and taken away, scores of plain clothes police officers in bullet proof vests loitered about in front of our condo, more arriving every minute. I wasn’t sure why they were all still there until a canine unit arrived. When the dog came out of the car, it went nuts. Quickly the officers retrieved something from the alley (Drugs? A gun?), after which all of the officers packed up and left.
A little exciting, no doubt, but it turns out this was just the beginning.
As we were driving to the store later, we saw this:
(Picture courtesy the excellent Eric Allix Rogers)
“Do you think this has anything to do with our fugitive?” I asked. It’s not every day that you see a car up over the sidewalk and crashed into an elementary school. What are the odds that it was unrelated to our earlier close encounter?
Well, when you have questions like these, there is only one place to turn: the Internet. Unfortunately, I didn’t turn up much. However, I did stumble upon something I hadn’t even considered: all of this happened while the Farmers’ Market was going on! The car crash pictured above is mere feet from the market, and the street is as crowded during the market as it ever is. It is extremely lucky that nobody was standing there at the time of the crash (I myself spend some time standing on that spot on the way to and from the market).
So what happened? I had to resort to witness interrogation to get what little information I could.
This silver car tried to evade the police. It sped east on 61st Street, leaving a trail of smoke behind – and a large number of police in hot pursuit. It attempted to turn right on Dorchester at speed, narrowly missing plowing into the 61st Street Farmer’s Market and crumpling into the fence by Carnegie School. The driver fled on foot while police apprehended an injured passenger. No other cars or people were injured, amazingly.
That’s right, an honest to goodness high speed police chase which almost ended in extreme disaster for the farmers’ market!
(Picture courtesy farmers’ market shopper Eric Allix Rogers)
At least two people told me that they were forced to drive for cover from the out of control vehicle, so some of the details are a little scarce. Did the fugitive try to run down the alley or down the street? We’re not sure:
I was busy running in the opposite direction in case the car plowed straight into the market.
I was also told that the chase started west of Washington park, closer to 55th and King, which means that there must be a lot more people who saw this (and that makes sense anyway, since you don’t pick up a police escort as depicted above without a little running room).
I pride myself on my Internet detective skills, so it is absolutely killing me that I can’t find any more information about who the guy was or what prompted the chase. Why isn’t this all over the news? A high speed police chase, followed by a crash into an elementary school of all things, a foot race, a flying tackle and arrest, and a canine unit finding evidence hastily discarded into an alley, with dozens of shaken up farmers’ market witnesses to boot! Surely that has to be a bigger story than, “A milestone for Maggie the orangutan at Brookfield Zoo” or ”Police see lit cigarette as loaded weapon in statewide drought“, right?
Nobody knows nothin’?
Just to finish off the week of “things we’ve been doing lately”, two weeks ago today Sara and I actually got a babysitter (*gasp*) to go see the man, the myth, the legend: Mr. Ben Folds.
I have been a fan of Ben Folds for such a ridiculously long period of time (though not quite as long as Sara, who claims I “stole” Ben Folds from her, despite the fact that I had a couple of pirated mp3s before I met her!) that it’s almost hard to remember a music landscape without him. Actually, I just remembered that “Whatever and Ever Amen” was the first thing I ever bought off this crazy new website called eBay. Sara and I danced to “The Luckiest” at our wedding. My mom liked the song so much, that years later she danced to “The Luckiest” at her wedding.
Previous to this concert, I’ve seen Ben Folds four times, and each one was unique and totally awesome. I sat in the front row of the balcony at the University of Illinois in a venue so small that I probably could have sweat on him. I saw him at a true college show at Purdue as part of my bachelor party, where he was hilarious in between songs. He was very chatty, telling all kinds of stories about growing up when we saw him in his home state of North Carolina. And finally, we had the truly unique concert experience when we saw him with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
Still, through all of that, I had never actually seen Ben Folds Five together in concert (Sara saw them once in the ’90′s). So when our friend Dabu informed us they were coming to Chicago for the “World’s Largest Block Party”, we knew we had to go. It was every bit as awesome as I could have hoped it would be. They played all the best old stuff, and I heard every song that I hoped I would hear.
(They don’t look this young anymore)
I believe we have 16 Ben Folds or Ben Folds Five CDs (technically four of them are just EPs, and one is a DVD), and every one of them is awesome, start to finish. I love the old, ironic nerd rock, Ben Folds Five stuff. I love the slightly more serious solo Ben Folds stuff. Even the very newest stuff is good, the last new album “Lonely Avenue” is one of my favorites. And the new retrospective “The Best Imitation of Myself” is probably the best compilation I have ever heard from any artist. I even loved Mr. Folds on the now-defunct acapella show The Sing Off.
You know the old saying, you have to know the rules to break them? I think Ben Folds’ deep understanding (intuition?) of music is what allows him to get away with the things he does. Like writing a beautiful song about something ugly, or an upbeat song about something sad, or to have a harmony-driven-piano-centric-with-no-guitars pop band, or to call three musicians “Ben Folds’ Five”.
I don’t know what it is exactly about the music, but the best I can say is that it’s just beautiful. It’s beautiful when it’s about the human condition, but it’s also beautiful when it’s talking about Americans over-consuming. It’s beautiful when it’s talking about love, but it’s also beautiful when it’s talking about breakups, or relationships gone wrong, or abortion, or a bad acid trip, or people who wear fanny packs. It’s just always, unceasingly, heartrendingly beautiful.
Ben Folds Five is preparing to release a new album, and you can pre-order it here. In fact, if you do, you instantly become a “Vice President of Promotion”, which you should go ahead an do, so we can be co-Vice Presidents together. It will be very nice working with you.
Ah, that magical moment in every little girl’s life, when she first sees a naked homeless man.
We had only recently arrived at a park we don’t normally go to, when Evie insisted that she needed to go to the bathroom. “Why didn’t you go before we left?” I asked. “Because I didn’t have to go then!” replied every child since the dawn of time. Luckily(?), there was a small stone building of the kind that can only mean ‘Outdoor Public Bathroom that is Semi-Occasionally Cleaned’, so I started in that direction, daughter in tow.
As we got closer, I heard the distinctive noise of a shower. “Hmm, that’s kind of weird, they have showers in the park bathroom?” I thought. In retrospect, this was probably ridiculous, but the bathrooms reminded me of nothing so much as the bathrooms at a campground or state park, which do often have showers. So my brain failed to send up the proper warning flags. “Hmm, that’s kind of weird, there’s shoes and socks in the open doorway?” I wondered. But we find all kinds of clothes all over the place all the time in our neighborhood, so that didn’t jump out at me either. There was a bright pink girls shirt that sat in our parking lot for two weeks until I threw it in the dumpster. There used to be a power line down the street with an entire collection of shoes hanging on it. So again my brain failed to send up the proper warning flags.
“Hmm, that’s kind of weird, there’s a naked man standing in the bathroom even though there is clearly no shower in here, and the door which leads outside to the public park is standing wide open where anybody could walk by or even walk right in holding the hand of a 4 year old girl.”
To give him credit, he seemed more surprised and embarrassed than we did. I find that odd. I mean, if I were taking a shower in the sink completely naked in a public bathroom with the door open, I would probably be nervous and jumpy, expecting someone to walk in at any minute. On the other hand, maybe the people who frequent this park know better than to go into the bathrooms, so maybe he takes a nice relaxing sink-bath every day with no fear of anybody barging in on him. And anyway, I guess I shouldn’t really try to put myself in his mindset, because probably if I were taking a shower in the public bathroom sink, I would probably just remove my shirt or something, and not get completely naked. But that’s just me.
We beat a hasty retreat and found the women’s bathroom instead. Of course this meant I had to wait outside while Evie went in to take her sweet time. You would think this might be the end of the story, but unfortunately the man quickly put on his shorts and then came outside to chat with me, sans shirt.
“I’m really, really sorry about that.”
“Oh, that’s okay, no problem.”
“Well, did she see anything?”
::please tell me I’m not having this conversation::
“No, I think she’s okay.”
“Well, as long as she didn’t see anything.”
::please oh please oh please let this conversation end::
“I think she’s fine.”
I have no idea if she saw anything or not. And I mean really, what’s the worst case scenario? Her life will not be ruined by seeing a naked man. Her mind will not be shattered. Let’s not forget that for the past three quarters of a year there has been a naked boy running around the house every evening, and she’s been able to cope with that.
Suddenly, the man looked at me with deadly seriousness. ”If this were football season, I’d have to have words with you.”
Realization dawned on me that I was wearing a Packer’s shirt and ball cap, and this man did not approve. ”Evie, please hurry it up in there, I do not want to be knifed by a homeless man!!”, I thought. I mean, look, he probably wouldn’t have knifed me. He was barely wearing any clothes, so he probably didn’t have his homemade shiv on him at the moment. Besides, the Bears/Packers rivalry is just good natured fun, right? It’s not like we’re in Philly. On the other hand, this is a man who was standing naked in a public place. He probably isn’t the last word on proper behavior.
(Side note, I would think that if you had a place to watch the Bears’ games, you would have a place to take a shower, no?)
I found some excuse to dart into the women’s bathroom on the pretense of helping Evie (“What’s that honey, you need help reaching the soap?”), physically speeding her out of the bathroom. I gave him a nod as I dragged Evie by the arm back to the safety of the playground as fast as I could go and still maintain my “oh yeah, I’m totally cool with chatting with half-naked dudes I don’t know (who a very short while ago used to be completely-naked dudes I don’t know) outside of public bathrooms about our favorite sports teams” nonchalance.
This is one of those parenting moments they don’t teach you about in books.
This is a post that is long, long overdue.
Down the block from our house is a wonderful place known as B’Gabs Goodies.
Gab’s is not just vegetarian, but is in fact a “Raw Vegan Deli” with the tagline “It’s not the food in your life it’s the life in your food”. In addition to serving up raw vegan food, they also sell spices, and some really fantastic smoothies.
(I don’t have any pictures of Gab’s, but you can see many good ones over at WTF Vegan Food) (That’s WTF as in “Will Travel For” Vegan Food, not WTF as in what non-vegans say when looking at vegan food)
More important than the food selection though, is the people who work there. I can’t stress this enough. It’s family run (including a brand new co-owner, baby Hudson), and they make you feel like you are part of the family. Evie is like the Norm of B’Gabs, where everybody knows her name and they’re always glad she came. We try to make it there pretty often, because we’d hate to see it go the way of the previous tenant in that space, the Backstory Cafe.
But you don’t have to take my word for it, there are plenty of glowing reviews on Yelp, including one by Sara:
I saw this was up on Groupon today, so I was motivated to finally sign up and write a post.
B’Gabs Goodies is a smoothie/raw vegan restaurant (small) and spice and herb store (very large selection) just a block away from us in Woodlawn (just south of Hyde Park and the University of Chicago). Gab, Ron, Marley, and James are so sweet and we make it a point to try to stop in weekly, as we were very sad to see the last business in this location close due to financial concerns.
So, the smoothies are fantastic (just ask my kids who like all sorts of combinations and especially love them with carrot juice) and the herb selection is great–I have bought oregano (excellent price and tastes great), cinnamon sticks (also an excellent price and I’m looking forward to using them), and chia (a little on the steep side compared to online/Costco/etc. but I highly doubt any stores within the next 5 miles carry it).
They also have a booth at the weekly farmers market on Saturdays at E 61st St and S Dorchester!
(Oh, and if you’re having trouble finding it, go to E 61st St and S Dorchester and walk east along 61st. Turn right at the end of the street. Yes, it seems like you are in an alley, but the correct door is the first place on your right. You will enter in the restaurant area, then the door to the store is to the left.)
(It should also be noted that, after Sara’s review, they adjusted the price of chia)
So we’ve been going there since forever, why am I just getting around to writing this now? Well, because I finally sat down and had a meal there, and it was excellent.
Mostly, Sara and the kids go without me, and mostly they just get smoothies with the occasional dessert. However, B’Gabs recently extended their hours for summer, so we decided to check it out for dinner one night.
Now, like a lot of people, I’m not really that familiar with raw food options. However, they understand that, so Gab’s is a “judge free zone”. They know that eating raw is new to most people, so they’re happy to help or answer questions. You don’t have to feel embarrassed if you’re not sure about something. They’re excited about healthful food, and happy to talk about it. They’re happy you’re there, willing to try it out.
So for me, I went into it for the experience, like I would any new type of food. I’m always up for trying something different. I had a burger (which was of course not a burger), which also came with an absolutely wonderful salad and a side. I chose kimchi. Everything was different, interesting, and yummy. I am neither a vegetarian, nor vegan, nor a raw foodist, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. So if you do happen to be some or all of those things, then I guess this place would probably be heaven.
I don’t know if you can find better raw vegan food in the city. Certainly, *I* couldn’t find better. But I do for sure know that you can’t find friendlier owners than Gab and Ron.
And tell ‘um Evie and Ollie sent you.