Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Green Smoothie

Recently, I learned about the health benefits of “green smoothies”. These are smoothies made from fruits and vegetables and packed with enough vitamins and minerals to make you live to be 129 years old and never need a doctor again.

Being an intelligent adult and skeptical about such claims, I completely jumped on the bandwagon. I almost went out and bought a four-hundred dollar blender until I realized how much beer and deep-dish pizza that would buy.

So, I’ve been drinking my green smoothies for almost a week now and I have to tell you that I can really feel the difference. I have a big one for breakfast and sometimes even substitute one for dinner. I’m never hungry, they taste great, and they’re good for me. I swear I've lost weight -- I'm in danger of saggin' in my Dockers.

And, I’ve been as regular as an atomic clock, so there’s that.

After some tinkering, I came up with this great combo for a green smoothie. It may sound weird, Miss Healthypants was skeptical, but she drank it, asked for more, then some more, and even licked the blender clean.

Start with a cup of tart, fleshy fruit. I like mango (seen here) but pineapple is also good.

Add one avocado. Yes, an avocado. It makes it rich and creamy and not at all resembling guacamole.

Then, a cup of carrot juice.

Six kumquats. (They were on sale recently, so I tried them. They really made a nice difference.) Orange slices and some orange peel can be substituted.

A knob of fresh ginger makes it go “ping”.

A big handful of fresh spinach
And a whole can of anchovies. Good for omega-3.

(Just kidding – had you going there.)

Blitz Blitz Blitz

Okay, I know. It looks like a prop from The Exorcist.

Miss Healthypants tries it.

Hey. She likes it!

The great thing about this is that you get your five fruits and veggies all in one go. Vary the ingredients as you like. (I don’t like strawberries or other seedy fruits.) It's been easy to keep plenty of smoothie-booty on hand.

And if you don’t mind a few bits and pieces here and there, there’s no need to plunk down four hundred bucks for a super-blender. Mine is a $14.95 job from Walgreens and it does just fine.

And seriously, I did NOT put in anchovies.
They’re for the deep-dish pizza that I’ll have delivered.


Monday, March 29, 2010

I Don't Mean To Be Ugly. . .

During a recent sermon, the dean of the cathedral I attend was telling us about her granddaughter who is eight years old. Her granddaughter had been born and raised in Seattle, until recently, when her family moved to Alabama.

Rev. Grandma was wondering if the child would develop a Southern accent.

Her granddaughter was up here visiting during Christmas break and everything was going great. But, as with most kids, they’re going to have a meltdown at some point. The child was upset about something, approached her grandmother and said in a perfect Southern accent:

“I don’t mean to be ugly,
but I’m about to have a come-apart.”

Don’t you just love that? A “come-apart.”

And in true Southern belle fashion, she used her manners to explain that she “didn’t mean to be ugly.” No doubt, she had heard from someone down there in Alabama that it’s not pretty to lose one’s temper. It’s unbecoming, especially for a young lady.

I got to thinking about her little phrase:

I don’t mean to be ugly
But I’m about to have a come-apart.

While I’m normally a very easy-going person, sure, there have been a few times I’ve had a ‘come-apart’ with someone. I’ve always regretted it.

How much better it would have been to have averted such nastiness with:

I don’t mean to be ugly
But I’m about to have a come-apart.

I can think of one horrible, mean boss I had over 20 years ago. With him, I should have said something like,

I don’t mean to be ugly,
But you’re about to cause a come-apart.

But just think how much better this world would be if we all used this little girl’s civil discourse. Rather than, “You lie!” or “Baby killer!” they had simply said,

Madame Speaker, I don’t mean to be ugly,
But I’m about to have a come-apart.

I just love that phrase. I really do.

It almost makes me want to have kids just so that I can use it on them.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Sermon

Friday, March 26, 2010


I think people use the term "LOL" way too much when writing emails or texting. I mean, how often does someone really laugh out loud? A giggle, sure. A chortle here and there, yes. Even laughing is common, but out loud? Loud?

I did today. I was eating my lunch in my office at work, and I let out a real, loud burst of laughter when I saw the following headline from The Onion:

Stouffers to Include Suicide Prevention Tips on Single-Serve Microwaveable Meals

Really. I may have caused a disturbance at my work place when I saw that.  I was laughing and it was loud.

Here's the news report from The Onion.

Get ready to laugh out loud. Really.


I'm No Lincoln

This week, I clocked 900 miles driving around the state of Illinois on work-related matters. It’s something I actually enjoy especially when I have a rental car equipped with satellite radio. You just haven’t lived until you’ve driven to Peoria while listening to a Concerto for Bass Flute.

While driving through Springfield, one can’t help but notice that everything is “Abraham Lincoln This” and “Abraham Lincoln That” and that got me thinking about Illinois’ second-most famous president.

Long before he became president, Mr. Lincoln worked as a circuit attorney serving a number of counties across central Illinois. Back in those days, there was no Interstate 55 or 74 connecting Springfield to anywhere else. Mr. Lincoln had to go from town to town by horseback. On a horse.

If any of you have ever ridden a horse for a whole day, then you know what it means to be saddle-sore. Oh my gosh, there is nothing worse. Just when your crotch gets raw and bruised all the way up to your ears, the horse starts trotting. Mr. Lincoln had to endure that day after day after day. The mind reels.

I thought of that because I have a slight case of plantar fasciitis in my right foot and my heel was getting sore from pressing on the gas pedal so much. I was glad my rental had cruise control.

There were no Applebee’s or Ruby Tuesday’s along the way at which Mr. Lincoln could stop for a bite to eat. No, Mary Lincoln probably stuffed some beef jerky and a few leftover corn pones in an old saddlebag for him.

I thought of that one night when was I too tired to walk down to the hotel lobby for dinner. I had room service bring a maple-glazed salmon with roasted vegetable medley.

And what about hotel accommodations along the way? Hampton Inns are nice but while in Springfield, I stay at the Hilton downtown (we get a state rate there).

Mr. Lincoln had to make do with flop-houses along the way. There, you’d get a meal and a bed –but back then, it was expected that male guests would share a bed with each other. And people didn’t bathe back then. Can you imagine riding a horse all day and then sharing a small bed with a smelly stranger with a sore crotch? The mind reels.

I thought of that when I asked the desk clerk to move me to another room because the one I had was on the first floor next to the parking lot. (It just didn’t feel private enough.). However, this hotel did have my favorite shampoo – Coconut & Lime Verbena by Bath & Body Works.

So, yes, as I drove through Springfield, I gained new respect for Mr. Lincoln and what he had to endure.

I was glad to get back to Chicago late Wednesday evening. I plunked my bags with the doorman while I returned my rental car and then headed up to the lovely solitude of my condo on the 50th floor.

Mr. Lincoln had to go home to Mary Todd.

The mind reels. . . .

Labels: ,

Now on Sale

You can order this t-shirt here

It also comes various designs, including a onesie creeper:

Labels: ,

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

White Squirrel Park

You know, I often poke a little fun at traveling through small towns across the state of Illinois, but I really do enjoy it. If you keep your eyes open, you just never know what you’ll find. Today was a perfect example.

I was in Olney, Illinois, a small town just southeast of Effingham. Locals had told me about the infamous albino squirrels that can be seen around town. I don’t know how the albino squirrels got there but I do know that if two albino animals breed (including humans) all their offspring will be albino.

In Olney, there’s even a small park called White Squirrel Park – I’m not making this up – and that is where most of the notorious white squirrels can be seen.

I had a business meeting this morning and one of my first business inquiries was, “Is it really true about the white squirrels?”

One guy said he had seen them numerous times but one woman said she’d never seen one. It sounded sort of like an urban legend to me. Like Bigfoot.

They also said that in October, the town has an annual White Squirrel Celebration, complete with a 5K run called the Squirrel Scamper. (I would totally love to run in a Squirrel Scamper)

More White Squirrel information can be found here.

So, after the meeting, I took a drive through White Squirrel Park. I saw lots and lots of regular, garden-variety squirrels. Obviously, I was deep in squirrel habitat.

Then, I saw a fluttering of white. Could it be?

Yes! It was indeed a white squirrel!

I had my camera ready and got a shot of the elusive white squirrel. I felt like I had just photographed the Loch Ness Monster or something. Here it is:

 So, there you go. Just keep an open mind and open eyes and you never know what you’ll find in this world of ours.

I really hope to run in the next Squirrel Scamper.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Greater Effingham

Once again, I’m on one of my whirlwind trips around the great state of Illinois on work-related matters. Tonight, I’m in the wonderful city of Effingham, pop. 12,384.

Such a funny name, Effingham. This city bills itself as “The Crossroads of Opportunity” since IH 57 and IH 70 cross here. I’m not really sure how much opportunity there is here. The nice folks at the local Wal-Mart seemed to be a pretty glum bunch.

I’ve written about Effingham before because there’s a pretty notorious sight here. On the south end of town, there’s a huge, 200 ft white cross erected beside the highway. You can’t miss it. I’m sure many a fine folk might find it inspiring to see such a huge cross, but frankly, it’s a testament that there really can be too much of a good thing. The first time I saw it, I thought, “My, but that’s a bit overstated.”

Then, as you drive just a few miles south, in the middle of nowhere, is The Giant Porno Emporium. A couple of large signs by the highway make sure you don’t miss it. The juxtaposition of the Giant Cross with the Giant Porno Emporium makes Effingham one of the most interesting places in the whole wide world.
I didn’t notice it until this trip, but a few miles north of town is another Giant Porno Emporium. Yes!

I don’t know what’s going on with these Effinghamanians. Don’t they order their adult-type products online like all the other good Christian folk?

I guess that big cross was supposed to be a deterrent or something. Whatever.

Anyway, it’s good to be back in Greater Effingham.

Olney, Marion, Alton, Springfield and Peoria are next on this week’s itinerary.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

First Day of Spring!

So typical.
First day of Spring and we get blowing snow in Chicago.

Friday, March 19, 2010


A typical first day of Spring in Chicago

Wandering Minds

I went to Vespers and Mass after work yesterday. Such a good boy, right?

Before you think I’m all, like, holy or something, I have to tell you that my mind tends to wander during church. A lot.

Here were some of the things than ran through my mind while partaking in the Sacrifice of our Lord and Saviour:

While looking at the banks of pipes on the organ. “That one pipe reminds me of someone. Who could it be? Hmmmm. Oh yeah, it looks just like Sandy Dennis with her mouth open. . . .”

Right before the ‘peace be with you’ bit: “Good Lord, I’m gonna have to shake hands with all these people. Lord knows what they’ve been doing with their hands. And then I’m going to have to take the host in my germy hand and put it in my mouth. Why can’t they have us give the sign of peace after communion?”

While looking at the crucifix: “Did Jesus fart while he was on the cross? After all, he was god-made-man. And we fart. He was bound to have let a couple of ‘em rip. I mean, he was up there for a very long time.
‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ (Luke scribbles down ‘23:46’.)


‘Woman, behold your son.’ (John writes ‘19:26’)


Noticing the guy in front of me has a cross on the back of his t-shirt with scripture references on it: “I’ll bet he bows down during the consecration.” (The priest raises the host and the guy does a deep bow.)
“Nailed it!”

Yesterday was the Feast of St. Joseph: “If the Church refers to Mary as the Mother of God, why don’t they refer to Joseph as the Foster-Father of God?”
So, no, I definitely didn’t get points for going to church yesterday.

And every time I go back, I know I’m going to be looking at that organ pipe that looks like Sandy Dennis.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Workin' That Room

Today, I was invited to an international business networking event taking place tonight. The inviter said, “Oh, don’t worry, we won’t ask you to stand up and give a presentation or anything. It’s just networking.”

I told her that, quite frankly, I would much rather give a presentation in front of a large group of people rather than network. She thought I was kidding, but it’s really the truth.

I’m a little on the introverted side, so the act of initiating conversations with a stranger, over and over again, isn't one of my favorite things to do. Even prepping for a colonoscopy is preferable to me. At least I can read a book.

But as a musician and performer (i.e. closeted narcissist), I love performing in front of a large group of people, even if it is public speaking. All attention is on me. Me me me. So, sure, let be get up there and give a presentation. Just don’t expect me to enjoy talking to strangers afterward. Isn’t that horrible?

Frankly, I don’t think anyone really enjoys this activity called networking.  Maybe if it was during an event I was hugely passionate about, that would be different. For example, if it was a convention of Dvorak keyboard users, oh baby, I’d be all over the place, “workin’ that room.”

But international businesses? I might enjoy locating the one person from Greenland or Siberia and getting to know them during the entire evening. But “working a room” of business people?

Besides, I have a choir rehearsal tonight in preparation for our concert on Sunday.

A few months ago, I was attending a really big networking event at the Hilton. While I was milling around, the event planner pointed to a grand piano in the lobby and jokingly said, “You wanna provide some entertainment for the next couple of hours?”

“Sure! If it’s okay with the hotel.”

She made a quick check and for the next two hours, I provided nice, backgroundy Classical music for the networkers. I went there not looking forward to the event, but ended up having a ball.

You just never know.

Besides, the few people I did end up networking with didn’t seem at all interested in the Dvorak keyboard.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Job Posting

You gotta love this job posting that I came across today. One of the job requirements was that the applicant should "be detailed orientated."

I wanted so badly to call the employer and bring this ironic error to their attention. Who knows? They might have offered me a job.

The Balcony of Terror

Here’s another dizzying video from my “Balcony of Terror” as it has become known.

Yes, it was a little scary to lean backwards over the railing to shoot the scene looking up.

Just kidding. I SO did not lean over the railing. Frankly, it made me a little dizzy just to shoot this video, knowing what it might look like.


Morning Scene - Window Washers

I couldn't help but to snap this photo on my way to work this morning. I wonder how much they get paid?
And here it is in black & white, like you would see in a book of photography on a coffee table.


Monday, March 15, 2010


Here's my attempt at artsy-fartsy photography.

My balcony in black-n-white.

Labels: ,

Green Morning Scene

The Chicago River is sporting its green-ness in honor of St. Patrick's Day --
Definitely a High Holy Day for Chicagoans.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Text

Today, I did something I've never done before. Something incredibly drastic.

"Oh my gosh!  What was that?" you ask.

For the first time in my life, I didn't tip a cab driver.

I was late going to choir rehersal this morning, so I took a cab rather than walk the nine blocks. I hopped in the cab (which are always conveniently parked here at Marina Towers, just waiting for me when I'm running late) and announced my destination, "corner of Rush and Huron, please."

As we were pulling out of the plaza, I noticed he was texting away on his Blackberry-type device. (Really! Can you believe that?) Yes, texting.

After about a block of feeling incredulous, I realized how dangerous this was. Yes, I had my seatbelt on, but he could easily injure or kill a pedestrian. And then I would have really been late to rehersal. Besides, it's against the law in Chicago. So, I said, "Scuse me, but you really shouldn't be texting. Okay?"

He mumbled an apology and put it away. Then, he picked up a cell phone and began thumbing away on that. So, I said, "Hey, you know, it's really not safe to be texting while driving. REALLY."

He held up his cell phone as he was thumbing away on it and said he wasn't texting. But then, I could see him continue to poke away on it as he held it down on the seat beside him, trying to hide it from me.

By that time, we had arrived at my distination.

The cab fare was $4.85. I gave him a five.

I'm used to cab drivers continuously talking away on their hands-free cell phones. That's a given. I don't know who they're talking to or why there's a need for them to constantly be visiting with someone else (at least they're not trying to make small-talk with me -- I really don't like that.) But texting?

Oh, and there was a sign in the back of the cab: "For complaints or to report unsafe driving, call 311. Cab number ####."

I SO called it.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


I was scheduled to meet Miss Healthypants and our friend, Liane, for dinner after work on Thursday. However, I forgot that my employer was having a fund-raising event that evening.

Usually at these events, I’m not assigned to do anything except to “network” with businesses. But this time, I looked at the staff assignments and noticed I was assigned to the raffle table. (Hey, anything’s better than “networking”.)

So, I left the following voice mail for MHP:

“Hey, we might have to change our plans a bit because on Thursday night, I’ve been assigned to staff a raffle table. (giggle) Hey, that’s fun to say. Staff a raffle table. Staff-a-raffle-table, (giggle) staff-a-raffle-table.”

So, when MHP called back, we tried to make arrangements for dinner.

“Don’t you have choir practice on Thursday night?” she asked.

“Usually I do, but it got changed to Wednesday this week.”

“So, let’s have dinner on Thursday.”

“No, that’s when I have to staff-a-raffle-table.”


“Yeah, staff-a-raffle-table.” (giggles)

She’s laughing. “Dude, I am not going to be able to get ‘staff-a-raffle-table’ out of my head!”

“Staff-a-raffle-table. Staff-a-raffle-table.”

She’s now doing her breathless, squeaky laugh.

“Staff-a-raffle-table, staff-a-raffle-table.”

Don't you just love having friends like that? Where a silly phrase can become the whole topic of conversation?

Anyway, I’m only assigned to staff-a-raffle-table until 6 pm. Then I’ll head over in a cab to meet MHP and Liane at the nearby French Market for dinner.

That is, after I staff-a-raffle-table.

Dear, Sweet Portia

Here is a typical photo of Portia. This was taken during the dinner party on Saturday night. She is on her ever-present vigil, waiting for a treat.


Monday, March 08, 2010

The Ingredient Party

On Saturday night, I was invited to my first “Ingredient Party.”

“What’s an ingredient party?” I hear you query.

Okay, I’ll tell you. It’s a dinner party where everyone brings one or two food items (ingredients, see?) to be prepared. The thing is, no one knows what anyone else is bringing and, just to make it challenging, everyone is encouraged to bring out-of-the-ordinary ingredients. Then once everyone arrives, you drink wine. Then you put your culinary heads together and come up with a meal from the ingredients that everyone has brought.

The host supplies the main-course ingredient. In this case, the hosts were Jack and Steve who supplied Cornish game hens.

We had eight people in attendance and here’s what we ended up with:

Crimini, oyster, and chanterelle mushrooms
Puff pastry
Yams (not sweet potatoes – but yams)
Fresh cactus leaves
Bitter melons
Red lentils
Chayote squash
Toasted watermelon seeds
Jar of ground cherry pits

After calling my bestie-foodie, Lorraine in amazement over the ingredients, we got to work. (Still, I was thinking, "How in the world are we going to make a meal out of all this?")

I was named “Chicken-Boy” and put in charged of the Cornish game hens which got festooned with cloves of garlic, chopped lemons, and thyme (thank you, Nigella Lawson) then slow-roasted.

The yams were prepared as you would for mashed potatoes. That was easy.

The red lentils were cooked and pureed with Indian spices, sautéed mushrooms and stuffed into the hollowed-out chayote squash.

The bitter melons are the most vile and bitter things you could ever imagine. Cooking them only made them angry and taste worse. Bits of them were passed around to unsuspecting guests and then photographs were taken of their horrified faces. The remaining bitter melons were fashioned into a Medusa-like centerpiece and placed in a vase.
See? Angry bitter melons.

The toasted watermelon seeds were passed around as well.

The cactus leaves were sliced into fingers, char-grilled and doused with lemon-butter.

The ground cherry pits were pretty amazing. They were sweet, crunchy and actually had a slight cherry flavor. They got sprinkled on sheets of buttered puff pastry which became a great accompaniment to ice cream for dessert.

And here is the meal.

It really did have a great ta-daah factor. After pulling this meal off, we're definitely ready to be the next stars of Iron Chef. (Believe me, we could reduce Bobby Flay to tears. I'd love to do it, too.)

Everyone had a wonderful time, including Chicken-Boy.


Friday, March 05, 2010

The Roller Coaster

Ah! A subject near and dear to my heart. They've certainly changed a lot over the years.

This was the coaster I grew up with, The Rocket, at Playland Park in San Antonio Texas.

See? Nice normal roller coaster.

And, now, we have a new one called Inferno in Spain.

God, I feel old.

Labels: , ,


The new 80-story condo building called “Aqua” sits right across the street from my workplace. I am just fascinated by it. You can't see it, but each of those balconies do have railings. They were designed to be invisible.

Also, this building just won the 2009 Skyscraper of the Year Award.

Deservedly so.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, March 04, 2010

My Spirituality

I’ve been going through a sort of spiritual “thing” recently. I thought I was over all that, but no. I’ve gone to Mass and vespers every day this week. Guinness and Ripley, take note.

So, I thought, “I’ll look into going on a spiritual retreat. God will absolutely flip over seeing me there. I like surprises.”

The online brochure said the following:

“We encourage men to make full use of the Weekend by asking questions, visiting our chapels for prayer and meditation, and utilizing the recreational facilities (gymnasium, pool, racquetball courts, weight room, lake, wooded paths) and by listening more closely to the voice of God speaking to their hearts.”

Gymnasium? Pool? Racquetball courts? Weight room?

How utterly revolting.

I ain’t goin’ there.

The 'lake' and the 'wooded paths' did me in.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Say 'Eeeewww'

Okay, I have this "thing" that I do at Starbucks that will probably make you go Eeeewww.

You know the little wooden stirrers they supply by the milk and cream? I hate to use one of those just to give my coffee a little stir. It's so wasteful.

So, I always reach in the garbage and use a discarded one.


What's wrong with that?


Tuesday, March 02, 2010


I’ve been crazy-busy with work and music lately, so those of you who read my blog may have noticed that it’s waned lately.

I’m still crazy-bizzy, so here are a few random happenings . . . .

After work yesterday, I actually went to Mass at the Cathedral downtown. The Roman Catholic one. After all, I’m still technically a Catholic, it’s Lent and all that.

I got there early and they were conducting Vespers. The little old lady came around and asked each of us if we’d like to participate, and handed each of us a breviary (prayer book) just like the ones we used in the monastery.

It was like riding a bicycle.

They were conducting a Rosary after the Mass, but I had to draw the line somewhere.

I had one of my favorite quickie dinners last night: Mix together a puddle of mayo and mustard on a plate, tump out a can of sardines, some sweet pickles, some sliced tomatoes and a few baby carrots. I always feel triumphant when I can get the mustard-mayo to come out even with the rest of the stuff. I’m pretty good at it.

The parking attendant in my building let a delivery van park in my Zip Car spot. It was not pretty.

Winter is coming to a close. So sad. I love Winter. The air is losing its bite. The snow is melting and dirty. I actually heard a damn bird tweeting outside. I hate that.

Miss Healthypants and Iwanski gave me a big surprise for my birthday: My very own copy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

They are so going to get beouf bourguignon delivered. Dear, sweet people. . . .