Monday, September 30, 2013

Foodie Pen Pal Reveal and the boobies

This week was a blur.  And I mean that literally; by Friday, I was filled with more cold and flu medicine than a CVS and was the breathing embodiment of why they put "do not operate heavy machinery" warnings on prescription bottles.  Machine operation was way out the of question for me.

I already had a Vegas hangover so when you add in a little overtime, sprinkle in a bit of marathon training, and throw in a dash of jet-lag just for fun... you have the recipe for someone in serious need of NyQuil.

I don't feel like talking about it but if you reaaallllllyyy just need to know, this is what the week/weekend looked like to me:

Translation: bus. work. work work work work. home. Derrick making dinner. offer to help. fall asleep.  wake up.  eat.  shots of knock-off brand NyQuil.  sleep.  take more of the juice.  back to sleep.  repeat x 5.  Saturday long run.  fall is here.  walk to coffee shop.  drink iced chai tea latte.  etc.

I don't know why I added that bit about the tea because it's not really relevant to my point.  I guess I'm just too tired to be relevant.

I might have even just skipped this post altogether if I didn't have something extremely important to post about. But I do; in fact, my inbox has an email with big, yellow highlighted letters reminding me that today, September 30, is the next biggest holiday after Daylight Saving Time:


The Lean Green Bean

In case you don't know what a "Foodie Pen Pal" is, a little background info:

Lately, I've been helping Lindsay, mastermind behind the Lean Green Bean blog, with some stuff on her site. Lindsay is an RN who knows a whole bunch about blogging, food, and just generally coming up with good ideas like Foodie Pen Pals.

Basically, Lindsay matches up the 1000+ people a month who sign up with their "foodie pen pal," i.e. the person designated to send them a package of food treats.  The only rules are pretty much no sending people with peanut allergies peanut butter and no spending more than $15.

I've played board games with harder rules.

I signed up for the first time this month and I'm in love.  With all of it.  Starting with my Foodie Pen Pal, Esther.  After our first emails (to trade addresses), I learned that she is also from the East Coast, also has a blog, and also loves Bloody Mary's (i.e. my new best friend; we've already made plans to meet up over Thanksgiving).

And did I also mention that she is in her twenties and owns her own company?  Yeah, owns.  Like how I own a set of Target silverware.  (She wins.)

One of the things she sent me was one of her company's (SR Bars) products:

A yummy, "paleo approved" Mint Chocolate Chip Protein Bar.  It was delicious and most importantly, passed the "airplane snack worthy" test: it kept Nikki, my hangry alter ego, in check on our 3 hour flight last weekend.

If this is how all paleo food tastes, you can sign me up.  But seriously, I'd recommend these bars to anyone, paleo or not.

Esther also sent me another one her favorite paleo approved treats, some beef jerky.  This one also didn't make it through our flight; I ate it with one hand while slapping Derrick's jealous little, jerky-loving fingers away with the other.  (Derrick approves of this snack too, by the way.)

As for the rest of the package:

1. A lovely, hand-written letter describing the delicious-ness inside.
2. Bloody Mary Mix.  Priorities!
3. Justin's Hazelnut Butter (with Chocolate).  Don't know who Justin is, but his spread is heavenly and my taste-buds agree.
4. Tea Variety Pack.  Can never go wrong with the essentials.
5. Chocolate Covered Wine Grapes.  If you do not like chocolate or wine, you are not human.  I am human so this snack was perfect!

I don't know if I'm just really easy to figure out, but Esther nailed it.  Definitely the best mail I've received this month (beating out that confusingly premature AARP ad and my electric bill by a mile).

I sent out my package to Esther on September 15th but, while the tracking website says that it has been delivered, Esther still hasn't received it.  I'm not sure what funny business the USPS is trying to pull, but if she doesn't get it this week... I pity the poor victim of Nikki's wrath.

So that's a wrap.  Happy Monday!  Tomorrow's Tuesday, which means only one more day until you're halfway done! 

PS - In case you forgot (or, let's be real, in case you already saw but ignored it), I'm hosting a giveaway in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month featuring some handmade jewelry by my craft pal Kristy!  Check out the giveaway HERE (or else you'll be next in line after the mailman who stole Esther's package).

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Breast Cancer Awareness Month and a Giveaway

Winning stuff rules.  Believe me, I know - I just spent a weekend in Vegas because my boyfriend won a radio contest.

I can't offer you tickets to see Miley without a shirt in Sin City, but I'm giving away something even better: a chance to win a pair of handmade, pink earrings and an opportunity to contribute to the fight against breast cancer.

So Miley, you can keep your pasties!

My pal Kristy is a wizard at jewelry making; she studied metals and jewelry in school and is to jewelry what MJ was to basketball.  After tantalizing her Facebook friends for years with her incredible handmade stuff, she finally opened her online store, Simply Sacha.

I've already bought a pair of her Maryland flag earrings for myself.

But I believe in sharing life’s joys (unless it’s chocolate; then you’re out of luck).  So in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month next month and to support awesome people in this world, Kristy and I are giving away a pair of her pink breast cancer awareness ribbon earrings.

All through the month of October, Kristy is also donating half of the proceeds from ANY pink pair of earrings purchased (including the ones we’re giving away) to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation.  So even if you don’t win these earrings, you should still check out her site.

(Don't worry, she's making us all look bad.)

I can't express the overwhelming amount of respect and admiration I feel for those who are fighting/have fought cancer, but I’m sure you don’t need me to.  We all need a little help once in a while so why not give yours?  And unlike those charity 5K’s that people like me are always bullying you into, you’ll get more than a cheap T-shirt and three days of leg stiffness for it!

To enter the giveaway, just use the widget below.  It’s pretty easy to figure out but if you can’t, I can send you an instruction manual along with a “How to Chew Solid Foods” pamphlet.

... Just kidding.  But seriously, you can enter to win three ways: by tweeting about the giveaway, following me on Twitter, or by leaving a comment on this post about where you'll wear your earrings if you win (or you can do all three!).  Once you've picked your poison, just use the widget below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
I’ll keep the contest open through Wednesday, October 2, and randomly pick a winner on Thursday.  Weeeee!

Friday, September 27, 2013

that time we went to Vegas

Everyone has that special memory that you look back on and think, "This will one day be a story that I will share with my children."

This is not it.

I can already feel my future offspring cringe.  Sorry, kids.  And no, I'm never letting you go to Vegas.

If we're being honest, I still can't believe that we went to Las Vegas to see the iHeartRadio Music Festival last weekend.

I'm unashamed to admit that I'm normally a "Sleepytime Tea, in bed by 10" kinda girl.  So when Derrick told me two weeks ago that he had won two airplane tickets, two nights at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, and two tickets to the Festival... well, I wasn't exactly ready.  And I didn't have a lot of time to prepare myself.

But a little preparation would have been nice because from the moment we stepped off the plane into a bright, loud, shiny explosion of glitter, cigarette smoke, and slot machines, we realized that we were way out of our league.

I’m talking Scotty Smalls up against Derek Jeter, in over our heads.  I mean, we were impressed just with the bus waiting to take us to the hotel.

Oh, how innocent and naive we were.

My Friday had started with a 5:30 AM run, so my day was long.  It was a rushed blur of bright lights, long lines, and Elvis impersonators.  We barely had time to unwrap the MGM wrapper on our complimentary face soap before we had to get downstairs, eat, and get in line for the concert.

I've seen The Hangover, so I knew you don’t go to Vegas in your Polo cardigan.  But while I thought I was getting wild with a crop top…

… Vegas didn’t even blink.  I actually looked like Michelle Duggar compared with Katy Perry...

... the talented singers of Ylvis (what does the fox say?)...

… and the middle aged lady in front of us who inexplicably returned from the bathroom with a thong on her head.  (I think she’s doing it wrong.)

By the time 1 AM rolled around (3 AM Chicago time), I realized that I needed to step it up if I wanted to stay in the game.  While the rest of the crowd was on its feet, fist pumping as Queen brought down the house, I was nodding in and out of consciousness, waking only occasionally with a strobe light to the face and Derrick screaming in my ear that he would, he would rock me.

And things only got weirder from there.  After spending the afternoon walking the Strip with the locals…

… I was wishing I had known better than to pack my standard Target tanks.  So when Derrick suggested that we visit the Ross on the corner, I took the idea and ran.  I don't know what Derrick had in mind, but after an early dinner in New York, New York... I mean Vegas... as respectable members of society...

... we got ready for the second night of the Festival, Vegas style.  

We were having the time of our lives channeling our inner Lady Gaga and Clark Griswold, convinced that we had nailed the whole modern-day music festival thing.  But dang it, Vegas, just couldn't let us win, could ya?

Compared to Ke$ha dry humping the floor in her black leather leotard, Derrick and I looked like the Kennedys.

And when Miley strutted out essentially naked (unless you count the pasties over her nipples) and began dancing up on the "little" people dressed as flowers...

...I just quietly took off my sunglasses and admitted defeat.

Sleep haunting and somewhat politically incorrect oddness aside, the festival was fantastic.  Bruno Mars had me busting out moves I normally reserve for Friday nights alone in my underwear and, in over three years of dating, I think the only time I've heard Derrick sing was when Adam Levine brought it back to 2004 with This Love.

As I was getting ready for work Monday morning, less than 72 hours after I had finished my first overpriced airport green tea, I was feeling a bit Dorothy Gale, wondering if those small people were just part of some big, technicolor dream.

I might have even succeeded in convincing myself that we never went on that once in a lifetime trip but luckily for me, we've got the pictures.

And this...

... just doesn't lie.

It's Friday!  Here's hoping you remembered your pasties!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

brunch with the experts

Remember that time I dragged Derrick an hour and a half out to Nowhere, Illinois, went "Augustus Gloop in a chocolate factory" nuts on Bloody Marys, then fell asleep at 3PM on the bus home?  Well, it turns out that I'm not the only one in Chicago who goes crazy about her brunch time beverages.

Even though Amber and Elaine, the ladies behind the Bloody Best, probably aren't embarrassing themselves on public transportation, they do share my unjustifiable passion for Bloody Marys.  

A few weeks ago, I guest posted on their blog about the Bloody Mary extravaganza that I witnessed. In return, they have a little treat to share with the tea drinking readers of Not Before my Tea.  

Even if you're not from Chicago, take note: if ever you find yourself the newest resident of my guest room (i.e. an air mattress halfway in my kitchen), you'll be sure to visit a few of these places.

You can drop some serious cash eating in this city. We know. Our blog Bloody Best is basically our excuse to go to brunch every weekend possible. An omelet here, a few Bloody Marys there. It’s a good investment in our books, but that shiz adds up. 

The good news? With a little cleverness, you can eat well and imbibe without breaking the bank. Here are a few tips and reco's to help you brunch on the cheap.

Bloody's from Rockit Bar and Grill (below)
Let’s be real. Booze is what drives up the cost on most restaurant bills. Scoping out BYOB spots can be a way to save some serious dough. Many joints have OJ or Bloody Mary mixers on hand. All you have to do is bring your own sparkling wine or liquor of choice to these places and beyond:

Fries, cheese and gravy—guilty pleasures taste even better all in one dish. We’re dying to try this poutine establishment, where you can enjoy a Bloody Mary or screwdriver with Chef Tom’s famous mixers. Just bring your own Svedka, Grey Goose, Dark Eyes, whatever. 939 N. Orleans St. 


You won’t leave hungry at any of Yolk’s various locations. Hearty portions (more than just eggs) are the name of the game. Wash yours down with a mimosa or screwdriver made with fresh squeezed orange or orange-strawberry juice. All you have to do is bring your own bubbly or vodka. Various locations

Like all good things, finding a good brunch deal is easy if you know where to look. And it’s sure as hell more satisfying than browsing the clearance rack at Marshalls. Here are a handful of good deals to whet your appetite:

(pictured above)

The food isn’t necessarily a steal, but it ain’t too pricey either. Plus, you can snack on the more than 30 garnishes that come on the amazing, gourmet Bloody Mary bar. An absolute deal considering it’s made with Absolut Peppar and only $5. 22 W. Hubbard

Venture to Zapatista where each dish on the brunch menu, like huevos rancheros and breakfast tacos, is only $8. Bonus: snag the house Bloody with a beer back for $5. 1307 S. Wabash

What this Wicker Park mainstay lacks in ambiance, it makes up for in great, affordable brunch. Slurp down a $5 Bloody or mimosa and get a hearty portion of no-nonsense staples like 2 eggs and meat platter with hashbrowns and toast for just $6 or egg muffin with cheese and bacon (including OJ or coffee) for $4. 2011 W. Division St. 

If you plan to have more than one or two brunch cocktails (as we sometimes do), a bottomless deal may be a way to keep the cash in your wallet. It’s like getting two, err, three for the price of one. 

Enjoy the bottomless mimosa, Bloody Mary and champagne specials while you nom on dishes like biscuits and gravy, pork belly and eggs and watercress bella omelet . Refills are just $2 after you’re done eating. So why not make an afternoon of it? 1904 W. North Ave. 

At this Lincoln Park watering hole, $28 gets you bottomless mimosas, Bloody Marys, Miller Lite or Coors Light plus an entree. Perfect vibe for the sports lover as well. 1983 N. Clybourn

Happy brunching to all our new friends out there! May the deals and Bloody Marys be with you. Feel free to brunch and drink along with us at Cheers! 

Monday, September 23, 2013

No one likes a Monday.

This post isn't going to be about my weekend.  I know, I go on the trip of a lifetime and all you get is a bunch of crummy GIF images.  Lame.  But I got back late yesterday so if I was going to manage a post about the trip, I'd have had to blog in Vegas.

Not happening.  Sorry, but I'm really not sorry.

I'm planning a Vegas post for Friday but I didn't want to leave all of my loyal readers (hi Mom!) hanging, so instead I'm going to post something else that needed to be said anyway: I owe you all an apology.

Remember that time I wrote about how "Chicago isn't all pretty pictures" and then proceeded to back that claim up with a bunch of pretty pictures?  I'm sorry about that.  And I think it's time to clear up the facts on what happens on Monday, once the weekend and all of the pretty pictures are over.

See, on my blog, I usually start on Friday night, when I'm pumped for the weekend.

But I cut off right before Sunday night.  Why?  Because Sunday night is when I do my "week preparation" chores... making my lunch, doing the dishes... until I realize that tomorrow is Monday.  And that's when things start going downhill.

I stay up as long as possible to savor the weekend.  But then I fall asleep and when I wake up, my alarm is ringing... and it's Monday.

I waste as much time possible brushing my hair until I finally get my crap together, get out the door, and make my way despairingly to the bus stop.

But then I see my bus and it's about to leave without me.

There's always a huge crowd at the bus stop, and usually I let the pushy people just go ahead of me.  But not on Mondays.

And then when I get to work, it's like no one realizes that it's Monday.  Everyone's all sunshine and rainbows, enjoying the morning, and I'm just like...

And then, someone has the nerve to ask me how my weekend went.

In the back of my mind, I know that they're just being nice.  But you know what?

Word gets around pretty quickly not to bother the grump in the pencil skirt, so I'm usually left in peace to browse the internet.  Until my boss emails me...

Most days, I'm good at what I do.  But not Mondays.  On Mondays, I usually get 2 hours into a project until I re-read my instructions... and realize that I'm doing it all wrong.

And by that point, I'm just like...

But then just when I think I will surely die in my cubicle, it's 5.

It's time to go home, so I get out of there...

... and back to my apartment so I can make myself some dinner.

funny gif photo: LoL lol.gif

Sometimes, Derrick will suggest that we do something when we're done eating.  And I'm just like...

... nope.  And instead, I take out my computer and amuse myself on my blog.

Happy Monday!  Don't let it get you down; only one more day until there's only three more days until the weekend!

Friday, September 20, 2013

look Mom, I'm a big blogger now!

Before I start, let's just get this out of the way now:

Now that that's happened, let me begin.

As I become more and more of an actual "blogger," I'm beginning to realize that the blogging world is a lot like the running world: deceivingly involved.

Before I ran, I thought that running was just like walking... only faster.  But it's not.

Running is knowing terms like "negative splits" and "tempo runs."  It's hydration techniques, foam rolling, and Yasso 800's. It's BodyGlide for your armpits and compression sleeves for your calves.  And even the most seasoned, serious runners...

... still don't know it all.  (Should I try energy gels for my long runs, or are they just glorified Go-Gurts?)

It's the same with blogging.  Only now am I learning about RSS feeds, sites like Bloglovin, link-ups, and ad space.  And I still don't really get Twitter chats.

One thing that I have recently discovered in the blogosphere is the "blogging award."  As far as I understand, these awards rank somewhere on the significance scale between middle school honor roll and a spot on the refrigerator (i.e. you're not getting on the cover of Time Magazine, but they still make you feel all fuzzy inside).

So imagine how legit I felt when I realized that someone had nominated me for one of these fuzzy feeling inducers?  Yup, Andrea (the lovely lady at The Morning Running Girl) nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award.

Which was great, because after someone else beat me to pajama jeans, I was wondering what I was going to do with my Nobel acceptance speech.

Once you've "won" the award, the rules are pretty simple:
  1. Present 15 deserving bloggers with the award.
  2. Link your nominees in the post and let them know of their nomination with a comment.
  3. Post 7 interesting things about yourself.
So... I nominate:

Pretty much every blog on my Bloglovin feed.

And as for #3, I think that this should clear up that sort of alarming picture up there.

1. I don’t watch a ton of sports, but I have cried over a Ravens game before.  I mean literal, mascara smudging tears of grief.

2. I evidently have an evil, hangry alter-ego (Derrick, my boyfriend, calls her Nikki).  Her favorite time to visit is about an hour before dinner.

3. I don’t run with music.  I’m talking marathon training 2 and a half hour long runs sans iPod.  It’s mostly because I can never find my headphones, but I also like the time to think without Rihanna butting in.

4. I modeled once.  I was "found" in the scrapbook aisle of Michaels by Kristen Alyce, founder of Garbage Gone Glam.  Two weeks later, I was on the runway modeling a white wig and a dress made completely from recycled gym flyers and exercise bands.

5. My life will be complete when I am a retiree living on a farm in the middle of the Colorado Rockies (like my grandma).

6. I work for an intellectual property law firm, but I majored in biochemistry.  I’m probably the only paralegal in the office who can identify an aromatic amino acid.

7. My feet are a spectacle of gross-ness.  They are huge (I refer to them as my baby seals) and my second toe is longer than my first (runs in the family).  I sometimes rip the dead, hardened skin from my many callouses to threaten my roommates and/or Derrick.  (It usually works.)

I'll leave you there with that to mull over and to give you time to figure out how best you can display that picture of me in a wig in your living room.

Cheers to it being Friday.  Bottoms up... YOU'RE (almost) FREE!

And just in case my subliminal messaging via the subtle incorporation of this link throughout the post didn't work... you can FOLLOW ME ON BLOGLOVIN.

Follow on Bloglovin

And we're out.