Friday, September 30, 2011

He had it comin'

Happy Friday friends!  It was a long week here with lots of crappy rainy weather, but I see some sunshine today!
I'm headed home today after work for a wedding that's happening tomorrow.  And I thought I would reminisce about another wedding I went to this summer.  Guests had a chance to take pictures in the photo booth that was set up.  Props were available for pictures as well.  
Our little group decided to plan a little surprise for the Farmer.  First I should tell you the bride and groom chose cupcakes in favor of cake.  And these cupcakes were exquisite.  Vanilla. Chocolate with chocolate frosting.  Margarita. And Key Lime.  So so good.  
Before we met up at the photo booth, the girls swung by the cupcake table and picked up another cupcake. The photo booth took a series of cupcakes and for the first three we all posed nicely and smiled with out cupcakes.  For the last one however we stuffed (half) our cupcakes into and around the Farmer's mouth.  It took him totally by surprise and we all laughed hysterically.  
The picture turned out perfect.

The best part was the Farmer thought it was funny too.
Even though he had cake and frosting all over his face.
And a little on his pants.
He wasn't even mad.
I'm sure Adam and Sam will treasure their copy of this picture forever.  Your welcome.

We headed out to the dance floor for pants off, dance off (literally I wasn't wearing pants, but instead a dress).  Turns out the newlyweds had a video camera taping parts of the reception.  Um crap.  I've already tried to convince them to just toss that of the video out so they aren't horrified to see me tearing up the dance floor.  They weren't swayed.

I hope that tape can never be used as blackmail against me.

Or I will be in very big trouble.

How I got stranded in a shoe store

I feel like the title is from a bad dream I had when I was five in which my mom left me in a shoe store, but that is not what this story is about.

Today, because it's Thursday.

Because tomorrow is Friday.

And I'm tired this week from not being able to sleep Sunday night till 2 am.

I'm sharing this story with you.

The day started off by sleeping in a little later than I wanted.  The Farmer and his friend Smokes were slated to arrive late morning.  Weekend planes included taking the train into the city and trying to scalp tickets for the Cubs game.  Only a week away from the big Chicago Triathlon, I really needed to get in a workout before the boys arrived because I knew I certainly wouldn't get one in after they arrived.

So although the sky looked slightly overcast outside, I laced up my running shoes.  Opting for the 7 mile loop instead of running around the lake 3 times, meant running 3 miles straight east.  It was at that 3 mile mark that I first started noticing the rain.    It was just a light drizzle and the sun was still partly shining through so I pushed on.  What's the point of turning around now when I almost halfway done?

I turned north for a short leg--only about 3/4 mile.  The drizzle continued, but didn't worsen.

Another left turn.  This time back east towards my apartment.

That's when I noticed it.  The sky.  It was turning a funny color.  Since I had nowhere to go but home, I kept on trucking.  Except I tried to pick up the pace a bit.  That was a little difficult considering I was 4 miles into the run.

The rain picked up so I took a short pit stop at Walgreens.  But the rain let up again so I took off.  I was really trying to run faster.  But as I gained speed, the rain gained intensity.  The formidable wall cloud was rolling in right towards me and I couldn't run any faster.  And then the lightning started.  Yikes!

I strolled right into a shoe store.  Two of the employee were even hanging out outside checking out the storm rolling in.  They even invite my sweaty, skanky self into the store.  So I browsed around a while, but the rain was relentless.  The street was even starting to look more like a river.  I browsed and browsed.  I looked at running shoes and sandals and dress shoes and clothes....

The employees kept asking if I wanted to call someone or if I wanted a ride, but I kept putting it off.  Mostly since I felt bad taking a ride and I didn't have anyone to call.  But I finally decided I would call the Farmer because I thought he would be almost to my place.

I called and he didn't answer.   Then I was browsing some more and he called back and the employees had to call me over.  Turns out he was still almost an hour away.

So I finally gave in and took up the offer for a ride home.  And it was awesome to be home and get out of my sweaty, rain-soaked clothes.

Thanks to the employees at Rogan's Shoes for being so awesome! I will definitely be back to buy some shoes there.

I'm so glad that the people at the store were so kind to me.  They could have easily blown me off, but they were very courteous.  It makes me very happy to know that there are still very kind people in this world (and in this area because sometimes it seems like they are lacking around here).   

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Another weekend, another wedding

 Sometimes during wedding season, it feels like I am attending a weekend every other weekend.  Now, don't get me wrong I love a good wedding, but every once in a while I just get tired.  Usually each wedding requires a drive back to my parent's house or a trip somewhere else, sometimes a hotel, and a gift.  The cost can sometimes add up.  I need to start budgeting in weddings in my monthly budget because I just like them so much that I keep going.

I think it's the happiness and joy that you can feel.  The bright outlook as two people join their lives together.  I especially love watching the bride and groom saying their vows.  Although the ceremony is filled with their friends and family, the look in their eyes is one of adoration and it's almost is if they have completely forgotten about the audience and are only focusing on each other.  Or maybe that is just the hopeless romantic in me.

And who could forget the food, beer, and dancing that occurs after the ceremony?  Would you judge me if I told you that was my favorite part?

On September 17, my cousin Michael married his beautiful bride Katie.  It was a gorgeous day-not too hot, not too cold-and the sky was slightly overcast.  Ironically, the couple now lives in Chicago, not far from me, but we all had to make the trip back to Iowa, for the wedding in Dubuque.

The ceremony was held at the Dubuque Arboretum with all it's beautiful flowers.

The groom's nieces and nephews (my cousin's kids) had front row seats as they were guests of honor after passing out the program and bubbles.  Mya gave me evil grins when I attempted to take her picture.

After the seating of the mothers, the groom waited patiently for his bride.

He even sang a song to her.  Presh.

The new Mr. & Mrs. Bries.

Afterwards, plenty of family pictures ensued.  Including a whole Neiers family picture and this little gem. That's my cousin Jill with her hubby and two kids.  

My immediate family attempted to take a picture as well.  This picture pretty much sums up how I feel about my brother.

Notice how nicely my brother and my mom are dressed.  

That's because I dressed both of them.  I am apparently the fashion expert of my family.  Note: I did not pick out my dad's outfit.  His shirt may very well be 10 years old, but didn't you know, color-blocking is making a fashion comeback?  So he is still in style.  Sorry Dad, you look nice, but I am making a note to buy you a new shirt for Christmas.

I didn't dress the Farmer either. Usually he is pretty good about picking things that look good with each other except for that one time when he wore stripes on stripes (you don't see a picture of his pants because he was really upset with me for pointing it out).  

My family always has a hard time taking pictures.  Apparently no one can shut up for long enough to smile.  And in the above the Farmer has his eyes closed.  In the one below, my mom, dad, and brother all look like they are talking.  Grrr.  Hey, at least I look good...right? Right?

The reception was held at the Grand River Center which has beautiful views over the Mississippi River.  The Farmer took a few pictures with me.

Then forced me to take pictures of him in tune with the saying "Got a little Captain in ya?"

The Farmer always gets irritated when I insist we take pictures together so I will just take pictures of myself. See, who needs you?

The reception was a great time and I definitely had my fair share of Blue Moon, dancing, and the world's most delicious cake balls.  Good thing my momma was there to drive my sorry a' home ;)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Mystery Grain

Hi friends! Hope you had a great weekend! Now it's back to the daily grind.  
My weekend was filled with activities while visiting Laura in Champaign where she attends grad school at University of Illinois.  Being in a college town never fails to make me feel like a college kid again.  I party at bars and sleep in all hours of the mornings.  We still managed to hit up the farmer's market, an apple orchard and a pumpkin patch, go for a 5 mile run, shop at the mall, attend a potluck and play games, chat while sipping coffee, and take a short walking tour of campus.  I really enjoyed the weekend and seeing her again. I'm glad she goes to school so close to me, since her other top pick for grad school was USC.  Not that I would have minded visiting her in Cali, but it probably would have happened a lot less.  
Her friends seemed like a great group of people.  I'm a little jealous that she's found so many friends already because I wish I could meet some new people where I live.  I guess it is a little easier when your whole class is new and looking for friends.  Oh well I'm sure I will meet some new people eventually.
I'm really here tonight for some help.
You see, I found this bag of grain in my cupboard when I moved out of my apartment in Iowa City.

It was a neglected bag of grain that I received in my CSA (community supported agriculture) bag in summer 2010.  I didn't know what it was then or what to do with it so into the cupboard it went, and I promptly forgot about it.

Side note: Does spelling cupboard out feel weird to anyone else? I never say cup-board, but rather something more along the lines of cuh-birds. And I think it should be spelled cubburbs or something like that.

Since I've been living in my new place, I've been trying to determine both what they are and what to do with them.  I've tried putting it into overnight oats, but they didn't soften up any and were quite tough to eat.  They seem to have quite the tough shell.  

My search to identify this grain has turned up nothing.  But the other night I thought I would give boiling them a try sort of similar to preparing rice.  I just threw about a 1/2 cup into some water and let the pot boil for about 12 minutes.  The grain seemed to puff up a bit.

The result was a soft but chewy rice-like substance.  

The grain by itself was sort of blah so I spiced it up a bit.  I chopped up a tomato and a green onion and tossed them into the dish along with a bit of olive oil.  The olive oil came out faster than I expected so poured on too much...oops.  

The result wasn't too bad and it was filling.  I still have no idea what I was eating.

And now for your viewing pleasure.  I found these capsules in a plastic Easter egg while I was cleaning.

Danielle sent these to me a while ago but they somehow got lost in my stuff.  (I'm not surprised because sometimes I can be kind of unorganized.)

The directions said to put them in a bowl of warm water and wait.

At first nothing seemed to be happening.

But I helped the process along by peeling off the weird outer capsule part.  

The result

A triceratops and a T-rex.   Aren't they cute?

Does any one know what this grain is?
Have you ever eating something without knowing what it is or how to eat it?

My mom once called me to tell me she was eating a pomegranate for the first time.  According to her it tasted terrible and was very bitter.  Turns out she was eating the white part.  Blech.  Don't worry I set her straight and told her to eat the colorful seeds.  She liked that part a lot better.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

[Trendsetter] - move to Illinois

I like to joke that since I moved to Chicagoland, several of my other friends have decided to move here/to Illinois as well and they are all just being copy-cats.  In reality, I know they moved here on their own volition, but I like to kid.  I am, however, very happy to have old friends live close by.

My friend Laura recently moved to Lincoln Park to start her Masters program this fall at Northwestern.  I am very excited to have another friend near me.  Since she moved to town I decided to pay her a visit.  
We first met up at an Iowa bar called Four Shadows to watch the Iowa vs. Iowa State game on Saturday.  Unfortunately that didn't end so well for me and my fellow Iowa fans.  Ah, oh well, there is always next year.

After the game, we rested with our feet up at Laura's.  For dinner we headed down to Navy Pier so we could grab a bite and enjoy the fireworks over the water.  Dinner was pasta and pizza at Capi's.  Nothing spectacular but it was a fair price and the service wasn't bad.  Although I suffered a stomach ache after dinner from all the oil on my pasta.  Probably won't be eating there again.  We walked around the pier a bit and checked out the sites before grabbing a bench to sit and enjoy the fireworks.  
The fireworks started at 9 pm and were set off to a patriotic theme.  Unfortunately they lasted only about 5 minutes.  They were pretty, but I'm not sure they were worth the train ride and walk down to Navy Pier.

They even had my favorite fireworks, the weeping willows.

Sunday turned out to be a beautiful day.  Nice and warm and sunshiney but not too hot.  A trip to the zoo ensued.  Laura lives only a few blocks from the zoo so it was a perfect Sunday trip.  

I couldn't believe the amount of people running and walking through the park.  It makes me more jealous that I don't live downtown and can't run through all the pretty parks and along the shoreline.

We saw all sorts of animals.


and tigers,

and bears. 

Oh my.

We checked out the safari animals.

And the crazy and cute little monkeys.

And some very brightly colored birds.

We watched the sea lions, but didn't get to see any polar bears.

With plenty of other random animals observed in between.


And yes, that last picture on the right is a picture of a naked mole rat.  And of course we then had to sing the Kim Possible them song.  *Call me, beep me, if you want to reach me. If you want to page me that's okay.*
That show kind of always annoyed me, but my brother watched it and he was a TV hog.

All in all, it was a very successful weekend and I can't wait to visit Laura again!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Snacky snacky

Hi, my name is Alyssa and I am a snacker.  Some might say I have a snacking problem.
But I don't care. 
I love snacks.
That being said, I am glad I don't work from home because I don't think I would be able to keep myself out of the kitchen.  That's also the reason I try to keep a lot of crappy-for-you junk foods out of my apartment.  
If I buy a bag of chips, I can almost guarantee you they will be gone within 3 days of purchase. 3 days! I bet those bags have about 16 servings in them.  I.just.can't.stop.eating.them.  Finally, when I reach my hand in the bag and they are all gone, I cry a little bit inside.  Then I tilt the bag up and eat all the crumbs.  
Chips and junk food are my weakness.
My snacking habits are always at their finest worst when I am at my parent's.  They have snacks galore in their house.  The drawers are almost always filled with 2 kinds of chips or pretzels and chocolate is tucked away in the cabinet, most usually in the form of m&m's.  We won't even talk about the other goodies that can often be found--oreos, cheese and crackers, salty peanuts, cookies.  It's a snacker's paradise.  
I love snacks so much that for the past 3 days at work I have been having snack at lunch.  No real meal, just a compilation of snacks.  The combinations have been quite strange and my coworkers often comment on them.  Today I enjoyed a hard-boiled egg, a Chobani pomegranate Greek yogurt, baby carrots, and a banana.  Thrown into the mix other days are things like cottage cheese and an apple.  These snacks make my belly happy.  
So I crafted a nice little recipe for healthy snacking.  Roasted red pepper hummus. This nice little recipe was inspired by Caitlin's Holy Delicious Hummus.  It actually ended up being very different but I had no idea what all went into hummus so I took a few cues from her.  

This perty little red bell pepper got tossed right into the oven rack with no cookie sheet or anything and broiled for a bit.  

While his skin got all nice and crispy, I assembled the rest of my ingredients and tossed them into the blender.  

Once the pepper skin was nice and charred, I pulled it out of the oven to cool down a bit.  Then I peeled the skin off and removed the seeds.  After a nice little chopping, he got tossed into the blender as well.  Along with a little bit of zest from the lemon and its juice.

After a few minutes whirl in the blender I scraped out my hummus to enjoy.

For my first attempt at making hummus, I think this is a pretty delicious batch. Even the Farmer enjoyed it.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
makes about: 1.5 cups

1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed
1 Tablespoon tahini (it's sesame seed butter, how crazy!)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 clove garlic, peeled and microplaned
1 red bell pepper
1 lemon, zest and juice

Broil the red bell till skin is charred, rotating as necessary.  Once pepper has cooled enough to handle, remove skin and seeds and chop.  Toss all ingredients into a food processor or blender and process till hummus has a smooth texture, scrap sides as necessary.  The processing part may take a few minutes.  Enjoy with veggies, pitas, and anything else you dream up!
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