Saturday, May 31, 2008

Asia's best contributions to America...

...according to Chris anyway, Asia's best contributions to America are Nintendo and teriyaki. So that's where we focused today - we played wii and made teriyaki chicken. And it was awesome. At least the teriyaki chicken part was. I'm just not very good at wii tennis. So Alex and Chris played wii tennis, and, like Warren Buffet, I stuck with what I knew and focused on the teriyaki and dessert.

The teriyaki chicken was another Cooks Illustrated special. We love that magazine. It makes us look like we know what we're doing. We'd eat gruel and burnt toast without it.

For dessert, I made ice cream. Alex would tell you that's because I hate him. But really, it's because I love ice cream. Sorry Alex. And just so you don't think I only make things from Cooks Illustrated, this recipe came from Elise at Simply Recipes, a site that I stupidly neglected to add to my list of links (until today). The recipe is for Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream, but I wanted Mint Oreo Ice Cream, as a nod to my days as a Ben & Jerry's employee, so that's what I made.

From the January and February 2005 issue of COOKS ILLUSTRATED


8 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs (about 5 ounces each), trimmed, boned and skin slashed
Table salt and ground black pepper
0.5 c soy sauce
0.5 c sugar
0.5 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tsp)
2 tbsp mirin
0.5 tsp cornstarch

1. Position oven rack about 8 inches from heat source; heat broiler. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper; set thighs skin side up on broiler pan (or foil-lined rimmed baking sheet fitted with flat wire rack), tucking exposed meat under skin and lightly flattening thighs to be of relatively even thickness. Broil until skin is crips and golden brown and thickest parts of thighs register 175 degrees on instant read thermometer, 8 to 14 minutes, rotating pan halfway through cooking time for even browning. [Kathleen note: sometimes, like tonight, these need a little more time to cook and may even need to be flipped over to be certain they cook through. We were able to see this when we lifted the chicken off the rack and it wasn't quite cooked on the bottom. A few more minutes did the trick.]
2. While chicken cooks, combine soy sauce, sugar, ginger, and garlic in small saucepan; stir together mirin and cornstarch in small bowl until no lumps remain, then stir mirin mixture into saucepan. Bring sauce to boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is reduced to 3/4 cup and forms syrupy glaze, about 4 minutes. Cover to keep warm.
3. Transfer chicken to cutting board; let rest 2 to 3 minutes. Cut meat crosswise into 1/2 inch wide strips. Transfer chicken to serving platter; stir teriyaki sauce to recombine, then drizzle to taste over chicken. Serve immediately, passing remaining sauce separately.
[Kathleen note: Because Chris the Carnivore was joining us for dinner, we used 12 chicken thighs, but did not increase the amount of sauce in the recipe - there's plenty for the chicken and for dousing your rice, veggies, etc. We served this with our favorite brown rice.]
Click here to read more!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

While I was sleeping

I'm a sleep junkie...I think. Having never been a real junkie, I can't be certain, but it seems similar from my perspective. Technically, I suppose, I'm a sleep junkie who manages to kick the habit after being away from the stuff for an hour or so and who relapses once my head hits the pillow.

I'm not proud of my sleep habit. When I sleep too much, I regret it, but when I'm laying in bed I cannot get enough of drifting off to dream town. If it weren't for overwhelming guilt, I bet I could sleep for a whole week or at least two days. Sometimes, after taking a shower and starting to get ready for work, I realize I'm ahead of schedule by 10 or 15 minutes, so I get back in bed for a quick fix and take a nap. I'm not kidding. I wish I was.

Once I'm up for a while (that would be longer than a shower), I'm up. In fact, I'm rarely tired at night. I rely on the clock to tell me when to go to bed, because I know what's best for my alter-ego: junkie, sleepy Morning Kathleen. I go to bed at a reasonable hour every night (usually between 10 and 11pm) so that I can get enough of a sleep fix to overcome the sometimes overwhelming urge to stay in bed in the morning.

I thought you should know this about me.

So when my mom asked me if I saw the skit that Neil Diamond did on Jimmy Kimmel's show last week my reaction was two-fold: (1) No, I'm never up late enough to see that show! I would never make it to work on time! and (2) Ick, Neil Diamond, no way!

My mom was (and still is) a big-time Neil Diamond fan when I was growing up. Naturally, I rejected Neil Diamond, as most kids reject their parents' favorite musicians. I rejected him so much so that when Dartmouth sent me the names and addresses of my future roommates for freshman year, I wrote both Molly and Jenna letters that effectively said: hi, I'm Kathleen, your roommate for next year, I sincerely hope you don't like Neil Diamond. I know there are people who will disagree with me, and I've come to terms with the fact that Neil does have a few good songs, but have you ever heard his Christmas album?!?! (Yes, I know that doesn't make sense, but he does indeed have a Christmas album and it's awful!)

Anyway, I really disliked Neil Diamond. Until now. At least he has a good sense of humor:

As the man says, "there can be only one Neil Diamond, all others will be destroyed." So I guess I will go with my mom to see him in concert in July.
Click here to read more!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Do my new links make me look cool?

I like to think of myself as an atypical girl, but deep down, I'm still a girl, so I find today's title fitting. Instead of - do these pants make me look fat? I go with - does adding Barney's blog and the Sports Guy's World to my list of links make me look cool? And frankly, I don't want to know about my pants and any appearance of corpulence. Who does really? I guess that isn't the point. The point is for you to say - no, you don't look fat. And to me: yes, you do seem cool.

You all know how much I adore Ho
w I Met Your Mother, and one of my favorite things about the show is the resurgence of NPH. While I harbored an abnormal level of jealousy over Doogie Howser's achievements as a child, I got over it (by realizing he was only a TV character) and decided he was a-ok.

When he emerged from years of hiding to play himself in Harold & Kumar, I was delighted. When he found a regular gig on HIMYM, I made it a point to watch. I don't know why I've only now started reading this when such gems as the following explanation of my current level of lameness were only just a few clicks away:

Source: Barney's blog

While I've just started perusing Barney's blog, I used to read the Sports Guy religiously. For years. Then I just stopped. I'm not sure why. Maybe it was because I got married and decided I no longer needed to impress guys with my slightly-above-average-for-a-female sports knowledge. Maybe it was because Patrick went away to college and the who-knows-less-about-sports:Patrick-or-Kathleen contests slowed down. Maybe I just got lazy. Whatever it is, I'm back on the wagon. Bill Simmons is hilarious, and his one part sports, one part pop-culture cocktail makes learning enough about sports to communicate with my husband, brothers and colleagues fun and easy! Enjoy.
Click here to read more!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I need a manicure

We had an extremely productive Memorial Day this year: hostas were divided, flowers were purchased and potted, areas in need of mulch were mulched and (in case you're thinking all we did was garden) Patricks were defeated in Wii Tennis. (It is a real shame that Team Tiny Kathleen didn't bring its A-game to the tournament on Saturday - Tiny Kathleen has many lessons to learn about not choking in critical games.)

Choke artist.

The day did involve a fair amount of time in the garden and, as the title suggests my nails are destroyed. It was worth it. See how much prettier our front steps look?

Before and After

We were so fortunate to have Alex's mom here for our gardening extravaganza. We're still novices, to a certain extent, and Maggie is a pro who has seen her skills go unused while (whilst?) living in London. She was happy to join us on our trip to Gethsemane Garden Center - another one of my favorite things about Chicago - to shop for plants.

Gethsemane Garden Center is a much more cheerful place than the name would suggest.
It's a massive complex of everything a landscaping enthusiast could want: thousands of perennials, annuals, shrubs, trees, pots, and fountains along with everything else you could think of for your garden. I would find it a bit overwhelming if the people weren't so nice.

So we picked out all kinds of flowers for the front and the back, including some of these lovely gerbera daisies:

Once home, Maggie and I grabbed our trowels and claw-thingies (I'm, like, totally a gardening expert - can you tell?), and set to work making the empty pots on the front steps all pretty like.

Then Patrick and his Tiny Patricks challenged me and the Tiny Kathleens to a Wii Tennis duel. I conclude this post with one word, at the risk of sounding redundant and being viewed as a sore winner, Victoryyyyyyyy!!!
Click here to read more!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

I hope everyone is having a great weekend! We are having a great time with our out of town guests: Alex's mom Maggie is in town and my little brother Patrick came to Chicago to spend Memorial Day with his favorite sister.

Ha! Fantasies about my brother actually thinking I'm cool aside (have to put them aside as they've been dashed - Patrick actually flew out here to hang out with his friends who are in Chicago for the summer), it's been a very nice weekend so far. Patrick and I did manage to fit in some quality brother-sister time yesterday morning when I made him join me for a beach workout with my trainer. She kicked our butts, making us run relays, do plyometrics, and do suicide sprints, all in the sand. Patrick summed it up best by saying "I cannot complain enough about that workout." It sucked. Here's a picture of us trying not to look like we're in lots of pain:

Patrick and I on Oak Street Beach:
the only thing that looks good in this picture is the city of Chicago

After the workout, Alex, Maggie, Patrick and I met up at the Green City Market
and had lunch. I headed back home and worked on dinner, which was really tasty and one of our favorites, but sadly, I didn't take pictures, so I can't tell you about what I made! Next time we make it, I promise to tell you all about Korean barbecue beef with coconut rice and lettuce wraps. The day ended with a double-elimination Wii Tennis tournament between Alex, Chris, Patrick and me. No comment on who finished in last place...

This morning we enjoyed a belated Mother's Day brunch at NoMi with my mom and Maggie, my brothers, Alex and me. NoMi is such a beautiful space - it's in the Park Hyatt with a lovely view over the Water Tower on Michigan Avenue. We had requested and (luckily) received a window table. The view was so gorgeous, we didn't want to leave, and, of course, the best way to justify staying a long time at Sunday brunch is to simply not stop eating. We'll spend the rest of the day fending off food comas, but they were worth it! :)

Window tables at Nomi
Click here to read more!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Familial domination

Last night, I raced in the JPMorganChase Corporate Challenge (that's a mouthful!). "Raced" is probably an aggressive description of what I did, but it sounds nice, right? You see, I'm a bit self-conscious about the words "race" and "run." Ever since I started jogging as a hobby, whenever I mention a race to my brother Christopher, he always says: "Kathleen, why are you doing that? It's not like you're going to win." So I've gotten in the habit of describing what I do when I lace up my Brooks as recreational jogging. (Except in the case of the first sentence, where it would have been cumbersome to say: Last night, I recreationally jogged in the JPMorganChase Corporate Challenge.)

People running, not recreationally jogging, the JPMCCC

I like recreationally jogging. Even if I'm not competitive with the pack, I'm competitive with myself. I want to do better than I did the last time. I want to do better than I think I can. And one time, I did win a race, which was kind of funny. There's no record of it on the web for me to link to, but if you're skeptical, you can come to my house, and I can show you my trophy from the-race-I-won-because-not-very-many-people-ran-in-it: sweet, sweet victory over very few people!

Last night, though, was very exciting. I stepped into my place at the starting line, between the 8 minute and 9 minute mile signs. I relaced my shoes (a weird nervous habit I have before recreationally jogging in a race), stood up and noticed that my brother Christopher was standing 5 feet in front of me at the starting line. So, the nice sister I am, I walked up behind him and said hello. I commented on the weather (it was cold), said hi to his coworkers and was generally friendly. He responded by asking my how I liked looking at his butt and told me I should get used to looking at it because it was all I was going to see during the race. Chris has always been the most athletic of the three of us. But last night was a good night for the recreational jogger. I did better than I did last year. I did better than I thought I would. And I did better than Chris. Victoryyyyyyyy!!!

(Thank goodness Patrick wasn't racing - he totally would have schooled me.)

The rest of the evening was good corporate fun, tempered a bit by cool weather. Our company is small, but about 40% of us participated, which is amazing. We even had enough people to justify a tent with catered food, pre- and post-race beverages, and a mascot:

It was a great event. Oh, and did I mention I beat Chris? ;)

Leaving: beautiful view of Chicago from the land of tents.

Click here to read more!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Learning my limitations

My job is pretty unique. It's a little like private equity, a little like a hedge fund and a little bit of je-ne-sais-quoi. My job involved a lot of je-ne-sais-quoi (aka other stuff) yesterday.

My boss funds a program at a Israeli university, and each year, the kids make a trip to the US to learn about American business and (for a lucky few) to interview for an opportunity to do an internship at one of our portfolio companies. My colleague who usually handles the program was out of town, so I was asked to fill in. I spent the morning interviewing candidates - learning about their stints in the Israeli army (always fascinating) and their schoolwork and class projects. In the evening, we host a dinner for all 20 of the students. I attended that as well.

It started fine.
I arrived at around the same time as my boss. The program director met us right away in the room and the three of us chatted for a couple minutes. Then, one student got the nerve to interrupt us and thank my boss for his involvement in their program. Then a few more arrived. Soon, he was surrounded by most of the 20 students in attendance. (Well, most except the two who decided to corner me and ask how they could work for me eventhough (1) my company doesn't hire interns from this program and (2) these two weren't among the group chosen to be interviewed.) The students hung on my boss's every word until he announced that he needed to leave. Like moths to a flame, soon all 20 students decided that I was the most important person in the room and found their way to me. If I had been overwhelmed by the two kids pitching their qualifications to me initially, I was at an entirely different level (superwhelmed?) for the rest of the evening:

"How long have you worked in your current job?"
"Where did you work before?"
"What do you do on a day-to-day basis?"

"Do you speak Hebrew?"
"If you had $200 million, what would you do with your life?"
"Do you travel a lot?"

"What is the most interesting project you've worked on?"
"Do you live near here?"

"I want to work in private equity. What do you recommend I focus on once I graduate?"
"I founded a fruit distributor - do you have a need for someone with my passion and drive?"
"I founded an IT consulting firm when I was 17. Do you have any idea what you are missing if you don't hire me?"

"What are your long term goals?"
"Would you like to come to Dave & Buster's with us after dinner?"

That last answer was "no." Instead I went home and was asleep before I hit the pillow. This morning my head was still spinning...

Remind me never to be a scandal-ridden politician/pro-athlete, or a rockstar/actress, or a billionaire. I just don't think I'm cut out for all the attention.
Click here to read more!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Get thee to a couch and watch this show!

There's another thing that perplexes me: why everyone doesn't watch "How I Met Your Mother." It's hilarious. It's sweet. It's got Doogie Howser* people!!

Maybe it will increase its viewership with fans of Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Jason Segel is a member of the ensemble cast) or fans of Scrubs (Sarah Chalke is a new addition) (or fans of my blog?), but this show needs to stay on the air - for the good of humanity! (Too much?)

The season finale was tonight and I won't have anyone to discuss it with tomorrow. Isn't that sad? Don't make me sad - watch this show! Give it a try this summer. You'll be happy you did.

Here's a sampling:

*Not only does it have Doogie Howser, it acknowledges it in hilarious fashion. Check out the link!
Click here to read more!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

One of my favorite things about Chicago - The Green City Market

Alex and I were both out of town last week, but I returned first, meaning I had to entertain myself on Saturday morning. I ran a bunch of errands and was lucky enough to find myself with some time to run over to the Green City Market. Like many cities, Chicago has lovely neighborhood farmers' markets throughout the summer, but the Green City Market is the largest and the best, if you can find a parking space (or manage the walk from wherever you live).

This weekend was the first weekend for the Green City Market and the pickings were slim. Next week we'll have more; we sold out of everything at 8am; would you like to buy some plants for your garden?; and try our preserves! were the common refrains.

It was a beautiful day, though, and me and my camera had a grand time.

And I discovered that I'm awesome at parallel parking on the driver's side of the street. My mom must be so proud!
Proof, in case Alex doesn't believe me

This brings to mind one of the things that perplex me: Chicago is the 3rd largest city in the US. Driving in large cities demands parallel parking skills. Chicago is in Illinois. And yet, the Illinois state driving exam does not require that you know how to parallel park and so driving schools in Illinois (at least the ones at public high schools) do not teach parallel parking skills. Why is that???

Other things that perplex me: why the TSA at some airports needs to see your boarding pass after you walk through the metal detector (treating you like a serious threat if you let it go through with your luggage) and, at other airports, the TSA people look at you like you're nuts when you show them your boarding pass - like: who brought little miss show and tell? I don't care where you're going, m'am!

Also, why the Starbucks in my building invested time, money and effort into reorganizing the ordering process using walkie-talkies, a zig-zag amusement-park-esque line setup and at least twice as many employees as before when they forget to make my drink (after I order it from the person who relays it via walkie talkie while I zig and zag, and reorder it at the register) 90% of the time.

And finally, why I still bother going to the Starbucks in my building when I could instead go to Caribou in the building attached to mine, where they never forget to make my drink.
Click here to read more!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Another one bites the dust

I've been suffering severe blog withdrawal. I was in NYC for work and was too cheap to pay for internet at my hotel (at $499 per night*, you think that kind of stuff would come gratis), so instead I spent my evenings getting a good night's sleep so I could do this:

Not pictured: me.
Running in Central Park is one of my favorite things about being in New York. It's a green oasis amidst the hustle and bustle of the city that doesn't sleep. It's peaceful and quiet - just me and other runners alone with our thoughts, cyclists whizzing by, oh, and a few cabs lest we find it too quiet

It's shaded, there's plenty of room for a good run, and it's well-populated. (I'm sure my mom is reading this and breathing a sigh of relief knowing that there are other people around in Central Park when I run, so I don't get mugged.) But that population of other people is actually sort of a bad thing, I'm finding.

I'm down with safety and all, but running when there are a lot of people around brings out one of my least endearing characteristics. I'm competitive. Really competitive. See that woman in the red jacket in the first picture? I hunted her like prey. I let her escape from me for a few seconds while I snapped the photo of the peaceful setting of Central Park and then I went back to making it my goal to pass her. Once I take that final step, I choose another "victim," I size them up, figure out how many paces behind I am and do everything in my power to close the gap. And so it goes... I don't know why I do it, but I cannot help it, and I'm not certain it's good for me. Two days of it - fine, but thank goodness I don't live near Central Park (or even too close to the Lakefront Path in Chicago) or I would definitely injure myself or do something even less graceful (like fall on my face) while pushing myself to hunt another one down. Also, I get "Another One Bites the Dust" stuck in my head.

Which is not cool.

* Yes, $499.
Wowwowweewah! I stayed in a perfectly fine hotel, but certainly not the nicest. I easily could have spent $800 or $1000 per night. But you know, I try to economize where I can. Maybe the economy isn't doing so bad afterall...
Click here to read more!

Monday, May 12, 2008

I think it might be our fault

Not every day, or even every week, but often over the past 10 years (has it really been that long?!?), I've thought about my Dartmouth graduation and how impossibly miserable it was. It poured. And the wind blew. And the air was unseasonably cold. Those of us who had umbrellas saw them soaked through and rendered useless. Those of us who didn't absorbed rain from both the sky and nearby umbrellas until they were rendered useless. Those of us who wore anything but black under our gowns had our clothes ruined. Those of us who did wear black saw our skin absorb dyes that will probably come back to haunt us later in life in some as of yet unknown way (latent black dye disease). Our programs were soaked and resembled wadded up t.p. from a high school prank. Our mortar boards melted around our heads like american cheese on a hamburger. We were happy when our valedictorian decided not to speak, though our huddled mass could only muster a shivering groan to express our happiness. We were sad when our commencement speaker, Doris Kearns Goodwin, did not make the same decision. (In retrospect, her speech was very well done, we were simply too hungover, too cold and too wet to appreciate it.) We counted down the names to be announced and the graduates to walk across the stage, all hoping that we too could volunteer to give up our moment on the stage, our 15 seconds of fame, but we couldn't. At the end, our bodies were wrinkled prunes. We headed home, miserable and incredulous that our school had such a silly policy about outdoor commencement and didn't have the decency to erect a giant tent to protect us.

For years, my mom, my dad and my brothers all reminded me of how miserable my graduation was. In reply, I reminded them that they didn't really experience the misery and so were not allowed to complain about it. They instead watched on closed circuit television from inside Collis, the student center, and played ping pong (ping pong!!!) inside, where it was warm and dry.

Every other Dartmouth graduation I've attended (I've been to 3 others) has been beautiful. Perhaps a little warm, a little too sunny, a little too perfect, but these aren't things worth complaining about.

As a joke at our 5th year reunion, we received umbrellas for our gift. Thank goodness we did. It rained all weekend. We apologized to the other classes - sorry you have to have your reunion with us. Apparently the class of 1998 is cursed.

But I think I'm wrong.

This brings me to something a little more timely: this past weekend. My mom, Chris, Alex and I all flew out to Duke to see my youngest brother, Patrick, graduate. It was a lovely weekend. We toured the campus, met his roommate and some of his friends, and drank from the mystical beer trucks. On Sunday morning, we got dressed up, drove to campus, walked to the stadium where commencement exercises were to be held, and felt the resulting deluge when the sky open up over head. At that moment I thought: is it possible that it's our fault? Is it not the fault of the Dartmouth Class of 1998, but rather the fact that my family is involved? Chris's graduation was lovely, if a little warm, but it was indoors, so it really wasn't ruin-able. And who has ever heard of rain in Phoenix?? The gods probably, simply couldn't get a rain cloud to form over the Arizona desert! These are the things I worry about when I'm cold and wet.

So Alex and I purchased umbrellas from a couple entrepreneurial folks in a van and found a covered location behind a concession stand while we waited for the ceremony to begin. Then my mom called to say that she and Chris were inside the student center, trying to find closed circuit television. The pull of breakfast and warm, indoor air was overwhelming. So we waited for the ceremony to begin, took a few pictures of the miserable scene (I had always wished I had pictures of exactly how miserable my graduation was) and texted Patrick (thank goodness for cellphones) to call us when it was over. Alex and I had McDonald's breakfast and lattes. My mom and Chris played pool (I did not, lest I have to give up my indignation over the ping pong incident of 1998). And we warmed up enough for me to walk over to Patrick's dorm to get a few pictures of him, all wet in his gown.

Unfortunately for Patrick, the class speakers and the commencement speaker, Barbara Kingsolver, went on with the show. (I feel for Mses. Kingsolver and Goodwin - what a thankless job: delivering a commencement address to the cold and wet!) Fortunately for Patrick, the 15-seconds-of-fame/walk-across-the-stage moment happened inside the truly lovely Duke Chapel where it was warm...and dry.

So I must know from my Dartmouth '98 friends - what about your siblings? Did they have wet graduations? Or does the blame sit squarely on our shoulders?
Click here to read more!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

One of my favorite things about Chicago - Smoque

Have you ever flipped through the channels on TV only to find yourself watching a show you never thought you would because they mentioned the name of your city? Nothing makes my channel-changing stop on a dime like hearing someone say the word Chicago. "Oooh, what are they saying about my city?," I think. "I hope it's something I already know, because then I can totally scoff and say eh, lame, I already knew that, I'm soooo with it." But there's also a secret part of me that hopes I learn something new, so I can tell others about it and impress them with my new knowledge.

A number of months ago, Alex and I were flipping past my favorite network, the Food Network, when Guy Fieri (who I would normally flip past) was talking about our city. On Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, the Food Network host, who hasn't realized the 90s are so totally over (Now That's What I Call a Haircut, 1996 Edition!!!), introduced us to something new - Smoque - a fantastic little barbecue joint in Chicago that Alex and I have fallen in love with. We tell everyone about it so they think we are cool and soooo with it.

Excellent brisket, pulled pork, St. Louis ribs, baked beans, mac 'n cheese, cornbread, etc. all prepared by a friendly staff with the five owners floating about making sure everyone is happy - that's Smoque in a nutshell. Oh, and it's BYOB (what's not to love?). So who's coming to Chicago for ribs?
Click here to read more!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

What you learn in two hours in an airport

I spend most weekdays at my desk, eyes firmly affixed to my Bloomberg screen, like this guy:

Picture of a man, similarly under the Svengali spell of the Bloomberg
terminal, with a much cooler, 4-screen set up (I just have 2).

My running internal monologue looks something like this: "ooh, Rescap long-dated bonds are trading at 55! Interesting. Claire's senior toggle notes are at 62! Sweet. Tribune 3 year CDS is trading with 54 points up front! Yikes. Conference next week in New York! I should sign up for that. Rescap long-dated bonds update: trading at 52! I knew that company was no good. Yay me! Claire's senior toggles at 60! Hmm, maybe the market is down today? Claire's is a fantastic company and so should only trade down when the market is down, right?"

That pretty much sums up most of my weekdays. I watch messages flash by on my screen; I congratulate my brilliance; I curse my stupidity. Repeat.
Except yesterday and today, I had the opportunity to unlock the chains that keep me at my desk and travel. I love traveling for long as it's not too often. It mixes things up. I get to go to board meetings and pretend I'm an important board member whose opinions steer the direction of my favorite environmental remediation company based in Tampa. I get United miles and Starwood points. I get to go running with my much faster board member friends who are nice enough to slow down to keep me safe from the "persons sans domicile" between our hotel and Bayshore Boulevard. And, inevitably it seems, I get to spend quality time at the Tampa airport, because we usually finish our meetings with more than enough time to catch our flight.

It's cool, though, because I get to hang out with my colleague/friend Ellen, who is very fun to spend time with at the airport. That is, until I start revealing details about myself and then she entertains herself by making fun of me. Apparently, I'm a pretty nutty kid. Facts which perplex Ellen/provide her with fodder to tease me:

  • I recently signed up for subscriptions to both Traditional Home and Us Weekly. While perusing magazines at the airport, I'm overheard saying: "What a lovely chaise! Oh! Gross! Jennifer what are you thinking?!?! John Mayer is ick-y!!! Am I edgy enough to read Elle Decor? Scientology boot camp!? Weird."
  • Most played on my ipod during this trip: episodes of The Office, Georges Bizet (Carmen), Anchorman, and the Dartmouth Aires (getting in the mood for my upcoming reunion).
  • I read photoshop books by Scott Kelby when I'm waiting to board the plane, even though I'm nowhere near a computer. Yes, I visualize playing with photoshop, since I rarely have time to actually play with photoshop.
So now you know. And knowing is half the battle, apparently.

Will you still be my friends?
Click here to read more!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Best. Rice. Ever.

Those of you who have been paying attention know what Alex and I are having for dinner tonight - chicken chili - tasty, not-too-spicy, extra bean-y chicken chili. I thought I would take a moment again tonight to sing the praises of Cook's Illustrated.

One of the ways in which Alex and I like to feel better about ourselves is to eat brown rice with dinner. It's tasty, satisfying and pretty good for you. Unfortunately for the rice-cooking impaired (a.k.a. us), it doesn't always turn out perfect. That is until Alex discovered the special edition, only available in stores (or probably on Cook's Illustrated's website) Cook's Illustrated Light Recipes. In it, you'll find an amazingly simple method for making perfect brown rice in the oven. Of course, I will share it with you, because I like you, because you like me enough to read my blog, all 5* of you.

From Cook's Illustrated Light Recipes

1.5 c long-, medium-, or short-grain brown rice
2.5 c water
1 tbsp olive oil
0.5 tsp salt

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 375 degrees. Spread rice in 8-inch square glass baking dish.
2. Bring water and oil to boil, covered, in medium saucepan over high heat; once boiling, immediately stir in salt and pour water over rice. Cover baking dish tightly with doubled layer of foil. Bake rice 1 hour, until tender.
3. Remove baking dish from oven and uncover. Fluff rice with dinner fork, then cover dish with clean kitchen towel; let rice stand 5 minutes. Uncover and let rice stand 5 minutes longer; serve immediately.

Serves 6 (we often double the recipe and use a 13x9 inch baking dish)

* I've upgraded my audience count to 5. You may have noticed. Alex reads for fear that I'll one day say something crazy about him. Candace and Katey were kind enough to leave me comments, so they are counted. I know my friend Tracy at least knows the address of my blog, since she gave me a virtual shout-out by adding me to her list of friends' blogs on her blog. And I assume my mom reads, because she's my mom and mom's are supposed to love us enough to read our blogs. I'm no longer counting Chris, because recently I've shifted from Chris-centric to cooking-centric and that just doesn't work for him. Patrick is too busy enjoying his last week of college to read.
Click here to read more!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

All is right with the world again...

It ate me alive the moment I hit the "publish post" button on the bottom of the blogger page. How could I write about McDonald's as my first post on food??? I thought about all the things I make and all my awesome kitchen gadgets that deserve top billing on this site, and I felt as though I let them down. My kitchen cried a little on Friday, folks.

So we had a little make-up session today. We spent a lot of quality time
together and I think, I hope, all is right with the world again. Both of my le creuset dutch ovens (they're the best) made stovetop appearances, since I made not one, but two dinners - one for tonight, one for the rest of the week - and I want to share both recipes with you.

First, for tonight: shepherd's pie, or cottage pie (since it was made with beef, not lamb), or really just beef stew with mashed potatoes on top. Whatever you want to call it, it was tasty, and it was partly made up, partly based on recipes I found in my cookbook collection. It was a perfect meal for a cold and stormy night! Foiled by our thinking about tonight's dinner yesterday when it was ugly out and incapable of changing our minds once they were made up, Alex and I enjoyed this instead on a temperate and lovely night.


1.5 lbs beef stew meat
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, cut into medium sized chunks

2 small-medium garlic cloves
1.5 tbsp tomato paste
1.5 tbsp flour
0.5 c red wine
1 c chicken broth
1 bay leaf

1 tsp fresh thyme
1 c sliced carrots (2 decent sized, or 3 puny ones if the carrot fairy brings you bad luck, like she did for me)
0.5 c sliced mushrooms (I used dried porcini, but white buttons or whatever strikes your fancy would work
well, or you could skip this)
1c peas (I used frozen)



1. Heat oven to 250 degrees.

2. Heat olive oil to a dutch oven (or other similarly large, ovenproof vessel with a cover) over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, salt and pepper the beef pieces.
3. Add half of the beef to the dutch oven and let sit on one side until browned, about 4 minutes. Turn beef pieces and cook for another 4 minutes and set on a cutting board. Repeat with the remaining beef, adding a little more olive oil if necessary.
4. Add onions to pan used to brown the beef. Cook until softened, 4-5 minutes. While onions cook, cut beef into bite-sized pieces. Once onions have softened, add garlic, cook for 30 seconds more. Add tomato paste and cook for about 1 minute. Then add flour and cook for 2 minutes until well absorbed into the onion mixture.
5. Add red wine, using wooden spoon to scrape up browned bits from the pan until thickened into a paste. Stir in chicken stock until flour mixture has dissolved and contents of pan start to simmer.
6. Add bay leaf and thyme and return beef to dutch oven, cover and place in oven for 60 minutes. After 60 minutes, remove from oven, stir and add carrots and mushrooms. Return to oven for 90 minutes.
7. While stew finishes in oven, make your favorite mashed potato recipe, enough to serve 4. (This is where the instructions get a little lame, I realize, but I have two recipes to type!)
8. Remove stew from oven, discard bay leaf, add peas and cook on the stove top, uncovered for 10 minutes to thicken. Add salt and pepper to taste.
9. Place some stew into an oven-proof bowl, top with mashed potatoes and place in oven under broiler for a few minutes until browned slightly.
10. Serve and enjoy (see example at right).

Serves 4.

Then I made one of our favorite weeknight dinners: chicken chili. The recipe comes from one of my favorite magazines: Cooks Illustrated. I read this magazine from cover to cover as soon as it arrives - it's my cooking bible.

From the January & February 2007 issue of COOK'S ILLUSTRATED
3 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves, trimmed of excess fat and skin
1 tbsp vegetable oil

3 medium jalapeno chiles
3 medium poblano chiles, stemmed, seeded, and cut into large pieces

3 medium anaheim chiles, stemmed, seeded, and cut into large pieces
(KATHLEEN NOTE: I use instead 1 jalapeno, 1 poblano, 1 anaheim, 1 green bell pepper and 1 red bell pepper and it's still pretty spicy.)

2 medium onions, cut into large pieces
6 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press

1 tbsp ground cumin
1.5 tsp ground coriander
2 (15 oz) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
(KATHLEEN NOTE: I use 3 cans to make a thicker chili)

3 c low-sodium chicken broth
3 tbsp juice from 2-3 limes
0.25 c minced fresh cilantro leaves
4 scallions, white and light green parts sliced thin

1. Season chicken liberally with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large dutch
oven (KATHLEEN NOTE: I have a 9 quart mega-large dutch oven which fits this recipe quite nicely, I would use something that holds at least 6 quarts here) over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add chicken, skin side down, and cook without moving until skin is golden brown, about 4 minutes. Using tongs, turn chicken and lightly brown on other side, about 2 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate; remove and discard skin.
2. While chicken is browning, remove and discard ribs and seeds from 2 jalapenos (KATHLEEN NOTE: make that 1 jalapeno); mince flesh. In food processor, process half of poblano chiles, anaheim chiles (KATHLEEN NOTE: bell peppers) and onions until consistency of chunky salsa, ten to twelve one second pulses, scraping down sides of workbowl halfway through. Transfer mixture to bowl. Repeat with remaining peppers and onions; combine with first batch (do not wash processor blade or workbowl).
3. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from dutch oven (or add additional vegetable oil if necessary) and reduce heat to medium. Add minced jalapeno, chile-onion mixture, garlic, cumin, coriander and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, about 10 minutes. Remove pot from heat.
4. Transfer 1 cup cooked vegetable mixture to now empty food processor workbowl. Add 1 cup beans (KATHLEEN NOTE: I use 2 cups of beans) and 1 cup chicken broth and process until smooth, about 20 seconds. Add vegetable-bean mixture, remaining 2 cups of broth and chicken breasts to dutch oven and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until chicken registers 160 degrees on an instant read thermometer, 15 to 20 minutes.
5. Using tongs, transfer chicken to large plate. Stir in remaining beans and continue to simmer, uncovered, until beans are heated through and chili has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.
6. Mince remaining jalapeno, reserving and mincing ribs and seeds and set aside. (KATHLEEN NOTE: Since I only use 1 jalapeno in my version, I skip this step) When cool enough to handle, shred chicken into bite-sized pieces, discarding bones. Stir shredded chicken, lime juice, cilantro, scallions and remaining minced jalapenos (with seeds if desired) into chili and return to simmer. (KATHLEEN NOTE: I just add the chicken and save lime juice and cilantro for right before eating. I skip the scallions and extra jalapeno.) Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper and serve.

Serves 6 to 8.

I know reading this recipe makes me come off like a bean-loving, spice hating wuss, but the first time we made this (as directed) it was mega-spicy and a little watery. While I usually follow Cook's recipes to the letter, this one I played with and I think the result is hearty and thick (without using any dairy!) and just the right amount of spicy and flavorful.
Click here to read more!

Saturday, May 3, 2008


It was a rainy day in Chicago today. Blah. So I decided to get all crafty with my bad self. Bookbinding is one of my favorite hobbies/crafts I'm capable of doing, and using this obscure skill of mine to make gifts for my friends makes me happy. So today's rainy day became a perfect day for bookbinding.

Cute little books like these are lovely gifts for all of the new moms in your life. A perfect place to put all of the pictures of the little one. And since my friends keep reproducing, I must keep making these cute little albums.

It starts with one of my favorite stores: Paper Source. While I should abhor it because it's created in me an unhealthy addiction to paper, I love Paper Source. They sell anything and everything a bookbinder would want, like textblocks with precut bookboard to match!
My first step is to peruse my ridiculous collection of pretty patterned paper and bookcloth to find a combination that shows my friends how much I love them and their new little bundles of joy. There's a lot to choose from.
I choose these papers - one for a new baby girl, one for a new baby boy.
Next, I get my tools and my handy notes on what size I should cut everything to, cut things up with an exact-o knife and ruler and voila! photo-album-sized paper, bookcloth and spines!
I then mix it up a little by cutting out a little window (though not entirely), so there's an indentation on the front for the name card to sit. (I've decided to forgo a full description of the process, as I'm not convinced you'll actually want to get into bookbinding after seeing me do it, but if there are questions, feel free to email me!) Next, I use my most excellent adhesives (a cocktail of PVA and Methyl Cellulose - am I cool or what?!?) to assemble it all. Of course, I constantly check along the way to make sure everything fits together.
The same glue gets used to put the paper onto the bookboards and with the assistance of a teflon bone folder (you're really jealous of me at this point, right?) everything gets all smooth and pretty.
So with the jacket complete, it's time to attach it to the textblock with more pvamethylcellulose goop and to make sure it sticks together, I use lots of heavy books to smash it together.
And bippity-boppity-boo, more little books! I'm leaving out the last step - writing the munchkin's name in calligraphy on little cards for the front cover - since that usually takes me 500 tries and 53 hours, but you get the gist.
Click here to read more!

Friday, May 2, 2008

I'm lovin' it?

I have a confession to make. I eat McDonald's...a lot...more than any self-respecting yuppie* should or would at least be expected to. And I'm not talking about eating McDonald's in times of desperation like on road trips and late nights at the airport when McDonald's is the only thing open. I ate at McDonald's for lunch today...and yesterday. I feel the need to confess this to my loyal readers, both of you. ;)

It all started about 2 or 3 years ago when I was looking at Chiquita Brands at work. I was excited about investing in Chiquita Banana's (the woman with the fruit hat, not the fruit, I love her!) company, but ultimately since the company's future at the time depended heavily on banana tariffs as determined by the EU and the US and because I wasn't an insider on banana tariff discussions, I passed.

I think the stock trades now roughly where it traded when I looked at it (yay me!). Anyway, at the time, I read research on the company, its annual report, and listened to earnings call. (Bear with me, I know you're wondering what a woman who thinks bananas are impossible to beat has to do with McDonald's.) And I learned a lot, because it's my job. Most importantly, I learned that Chiquita Brands owns Fresh Express and (at least at the time) Fresh Express was the purveyor of fruits and vegetables for McDonald's. So I thought to myself, I buy Fresh Express salad mix at the grocery store, I wonder if Fresh Express salad mix at McDonald's is any good. And you know what? It is! I've been a McDonald's salad eater ever since.

Of course then I started eating at McDonald's frequently enough to warrant trying some other menu items (you know, the things that don't come in the magical green plastic salad bag, which assuages some of the guilt of walking around with a McDonald's bag) and I've got to say - they make an excellent grilled chicken sandwich, lovely chicken strips (when you're feeling like you deserve that sort of thing) and a darn good salad. I'm serious, people! My name is Kathleen, I love to cook, I make most things at home from scratch, and I love McDonald's. "Hello Kathleen..." It's so sad to me that this will be my first blog post with the label "food." But I gotta keep it real, you know?

* And yes, I classified myself as a yuppie. It has such negative connotations, but it stands for Young Urban Professional. That's me, right? The only thing that's suspect about me calling myself a yuppie is the young part. I'm, like, totally urban and relatively professional, at least during the day when I'm not carrying a paper McDonald's bag. Of course, now I just read the wikipedia entry and the connotations are horrible. Nonetheless, it's a convenient word for young urban professionals, so I'm sticking with it.
Click here to read more!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

It's our trip!

Alex and I are very lucky to have extremely adventurous friends who live exciting lives outside the country. We love to visit them. In the case of our friends in Australia and New Zealand, we've promised to visit, starting each year with the declaration that this year will be the year that we visit. Last night we made an honest couple out of ourselves and booked our tickets. Our route looks like this (excuse all the orange dots - they're irrelevant):

I'm so excited I can barely contain myself. This coming October, we make the journey from Chicago to San Francisco to Sydney to New Zealand to Tokyo and back. Southern hemisphere (and Japan), here we come! Click here to read more!