I walk on the beach almost every day. I love the way the sand feels on my feet. If I’m feeling adventurous, I’ll dip my toes in the water for a moment. Most days, I back away immediately. The water is too cold for my Arizona blood.
Archives for July 2015
I ordered gorditas rajas con queso but was told they were out. Bummer. I settled for just veggie gorditas, which means beans, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and sour cream. I wasn’t sure what to expect, because what I consider gorditas are actually sopes. These were more like sopes in sandwich form. I loved the beans but wished for a little more flavor in the gorditas. I wished there was cotija cheese on the beans or in the gorditas.
Graham chose the fish tacos with extra rice and no beans. How a person could not be a fan of beans I will never understand, but to each his own.
I am told that to find good Mexican food I should go to the Pilsen neighborhood. Sadly, that part of the city is a bit of a drive from our place. Perhaps we’ve venture there sometime soon. In the meantime, I will look for other Mexican restaurants to try and ask my mom how to make some of her best dishes. I just hope I can do the recipes justice.
I’ve been following Sol Cafe on Instagram since we moved here. I was finally persuaded to get myself in the door after whoever handles the cafe’s social media posted a photo of a vegan burrito this week. Yes, it was a burrito photo that prompted me to act.
The burritos are actually from the Growling Rabbit. When I asked the cashier to heat up my burrito, he jokingly said no, but I wasn’t amused. (Before I have caffeine I don’t have a sense of humor.)
Most of the tables were claimed at this point in the morning, so I settled on the table at the front window. It didn’t offer much of a view. It faces street traffic and a shutdown restaurant across the street. Inside, though, the space is cozy. Artwork for purchase hangs on the wall. There is an antique TV and a seating area in the back. Books are stacked on a coffee table. A small retail area offers such things as Sol Cafe bandannas and cards.
The barista brought my warm burrito out to me. The vegan burrito contains spicy tofu, black beans, sweet potato and spinach and comes with pico de gallo. I relished every bite of it. Ray Charles’ “Georgia” came on as I enjoyed my burrito. It was followed by Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon.”
I had ordered the signature Phoenix Fizz drink to go along with my burrito. The name intrigued me. The beverage is a sparkly tea punch with a kick that is provided by spices. It was a bit too much for me. I should have just ordered coffee or a chai latte, but I’m glad I tried something new.
Sometimes it’s a nice treat to try a different local business over the convenience of a national chain like Starbucks. I like to think I practice a balance of supporting both.
Sol Cafe is on Howard Street in Rogers Park. It’s a short walk from the Howard CTA station.
My first experience growing vegetables indoors has so far been positive. I have a lot to learn, namely what do I do with a lot of basil?
My eggplant plants have each produced one fruit. The mini eggplants are about 2 inches long. I think I waited too long to pick one of them; it started to lose its purple color, though it still feels glossy. The directions on the Bonnie Plants website say to pick them while they are still glossy; otherwise, they might have a bitter taste. I found a recipe for Mini Eggplant Parmesan via the Food Network that I hope to try, though I wouldn’t be able to make much with two mini eggplants.
My Anaheim pepper plant has produced one pepper. The others haven’t yielded any, though it appears that a couple may be starting to grow. What should I do with one grown pepper?
Our tomato vines don’t appear to be growing any tomatoes yet. The plant get taller and taller every day, but so far it has produced nothing. The same is true of our cucumber and bell pepper plants.
Though I am not enjoying a feast of vegetables from our garden yet, I am proud that I have been able to grow a few things. I was never able to plant vegetables on our patio in Phoenix because the space didn’t get enough sunlight. The ability to grow a little bit of food is satisfying and rewarding.
How’s your summer garden coming along?
Flowers grow in front of brick buildings and along driveways. Bumble bees and butterflies keep busy, floating from bloom to bloom. Lightning bugs flicker about at dusk.
Sunset and skyline admirers walk on the pier. On a clear day, the distant towers of the Loop are visible. Sometimes they are obscured by a haze. If a storm is clearing up, the clouds transform from bright orange to red to pink to purple.
People watchers might comment on how lucky people are to be on a boat on such a lovely day before redirecting their gaze to the waves.
Seagulls hang out on the sand, looking for scraps to eat.
Bright murals decorate underpasses and walls.
Sunlight creeps through the leaves.
If these are the sights of the season, I never want summer to end.
When I bought tickets for a Monday night cruise via Groupon, I had no idea what to expect. I wasn’t sure if it was on Lake Michigan or the Chicago River, but I figured it would be entertaining either way.
We boarded the Mystic Blue Yacht to see it’s basically a club on a boat. There’s a DJ and a bar on the top deck. People had already claimed the seats in the center, so we were left standing on the railing, which turned out to be the best position to take in views. (Each floor had music and a bar, and the lower inside portion had a dance floor, too.) No one danced at first; most people took selfies with the skyline backdrop while sipping their first drinks. After a while, the crowd got a little louder and more relaxed. The music was a selection of hits you forgot you loved, a lot of them from the ’90s.
The views are incredible. I mentioned a few times that I just can’t believe we live in Chicago.
Also visible are Buckingham Fountain and the Navy Pier Ferris wheel.
We could see the northern neighborhoods to the right.
As the end of the two-hour cruise approaches, the yacht returns to Navy Pier.
All this fun cost $23 for two people (thanks to a $5 promo code), $13 for parking and $21 for two drinks. Am I crazy for thinking that’s a good deal for Chicago?
I wasn’t expecting miracles out of my Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon experience, but I did think I would finish in about two hours and 15 minutes. Just before the race, the announcer said something like, “This is not the race for a PR. It’s a race to have fun.”
We had been hearing about the heat index in Chicago all weekend, so I tempered my expectations a bit. My plan was to stick to the 2:10 pace team for as long as I felt comfortable. That didn’t last long.
I felt sticky from the moment I crossed the start line. We ran over a bridge, immediately dispelling my belief that there are no hills to run in Chicago. We crossed many of them.
I heeded the advice to enjoy the run, stopping to take a photo in front of the Chicago Theater and giving high-fives to children along the route.
I took every cup of water, ran through every hose, grabbed ice at every opportunity and looked for the cooling stations. I stayed in the shade as much as possible. At Mile 5, I was passed by the 2:20 pace team. I was drenched in sweat and battling negative thoughts, so I decided then to just have as much fun as possible, forgetting about time.
Around Mile 9, I seriously considered crossing to the other side of the cones to skip part of the course. I didn’t, of course. We soon turned east, running toward the sun. It was impossible to stay cool. I grabbed my first Gu and walked a bit.
I was extremely relieved to turn north toward Grant Park. The DJ pointed toward the finish as he danced. I enjoyed myself for a bit. I Periscoped for 3 minutes as I took one of many walking breaks. As I moseyed along, I noticed several people in need of medical attention. A woman was passed out on the course. A group of runners surrounded her. Another man looked like his legs were severely cramping. Yet another runner approached the medical team, who gave her a cold bottle of water. The cold, sponges around Mile 10 were a much-needed treat. On one of the final hills, I saw a runner being pulled by her friend.
I finally started jogging again a half-mile from the finish line. As soon as I crossed, I saw a guy who appeared to have blurred vision being helped by a friend. I rushed to get water, a sports drink, Popsicles, a wet towel and a bagel. The Popsicles were exactly what I needed.
My time was 2:37, the longest it has ever taken me to finish a half-marathon. Despite the heat, the views along the course made it a memorable experience. What’s most important is I listened to my body, something yoga has taught me. In that regard the race was a success.
It seems that when I focus on one aspect of my fitness routine, another one suffers. Lately, running has taken a back seat, despite my upcoming half marathon. I recently won a free month of yoga at Yoga Six, and I took it as a sign that I need to reconnect with my yoga practice. I had all but abandoned my practice over the past month until I decided to commit myself to attending as many yoga classes in the studio as I could. Yoga classes in the studio are still important to me because I need an instructor to push me to really approach my edge and let myself get deeper into poses.
By sheer serendipity, I have free yoga during the month Yoga Six is hosting a yoga challenge in which students try to take three of each of the studio’s six class types, plus a workshop. Students who complete the challenge are eligible to win prizes. What better way is there to commit myself to yoga than to do as much of it as possible and get tastes of different styles and methods? I’ve now experienced five different instructors and have been re-inspired to try to teach in the near future.
For anyone looking to delve deeper into their practice, or for those who are just starting out, there are ways to get inspired.
- Take a class from a new instructor or at a new studio.
- Try a new class type. Never been to hot yoga? Take it at least once. Usually prefer faster-pace vinyasa classes? Go to a yin one instead.
- Next time a class features some play time, try a pose that scares you. (Ask the instructor to spot you.)
- Take a workshop.
- Browse Instagram for #yoga poses. See what people of all ages and body types can accomplish.
- Ask a friend to go to yoga class with you. Make it a date with a meal or fresh juice afterward.
- If time and budget allows, enroll in teacher training, even if you don’t plan to teach. It’s a wonderful method of self-study.
- Start your own yoga challenge for yourself. How many times can you make it to class? Have you ever tried two-a-days?
As I was leaving yoga this weekend, my instructor said, “If the sun is shining, smile at it and it will come back.”
Sunday was one of those perfect Chicago summer days. They can be a rare treat.
It was one of those days when everyone grabs the grill and heads to the beach park for a picnic. Vendors pushing ice-cream carts hawk their goodies. Dogs are freed from their leashes to prance about the grass. The soccer and softball fields are teeming with players of all ages. Runners seize the opportunity for a lakefront jaunt. Bicyclists do the same, trying to dodge pedestrians on the way. Walkers relishing the weather smile at passers-by.
I smiled back, and then I remembered the most important smile I needed to return.
I smiled at the sun.
I’ve been able to try three yoga studios on the North Side of Chicago during my time here. Each has its own style and perks. I hope to spend more time at each of them as I revive my intention to get deeper into my yoga practice.
Yoga Six Lincoln Park
Chi-Town Shakti is in the Edgewater neighborhood. It’s a small studio on Devon Avenue.
The class I’ve attended the most is Hatha 1-2, which is a 60-minute session for which students can use the “pay what you can” option. Most of the classes I went to were taught by an instructor who loves to play around and experiment with sequences and transitions. He adjusts more than most instructors I’ve met in Chicago so far. The Hatha class holds poses longer than vinyasa-style classes; often we would be in a high lunge for 10 breaths or more. Another staple of his classes is play time against the wall to work on certain poses and spotting each other in inversions. His aim is to build community. He does not use music for the most part, other than chanting at the end of class and hitting a gong. The studio itself is located close to a street, so noise creeps into the space, but for the most part it’s easy to tune it out.