Chatterbox Pub

What a weekend! Sunday was the Jewish holiday of Purim, so the weekend was full of festivities. Saturday night was the megillah reading and shpiel, and Sunday there was a Purim Carnival. Lots of fun and lots of running around led to lots of exhaustion and a hungry belly. On Sunday afternoon, Noah and I went to The Chatterbox Pub to rejuvenate.

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Although there during happy hour, we didn’t partake in any drinks (besides water), but we did order some food. Highlight being…

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SWEET POTATO FRIES! Given that sweet potatoes are among my favorite foods (quite likely THE favorite), eating them sliced and fried is always a sure winner with me. These fries were just the type I like – not too thin to lose the ‘body,’ but still crisp. They were served with a cinnamon honey mustard (dip container at the bottom of the pic) which was really good – hardly mustard tasting at all. The staff was also very friendly and accommodating. In fact, the above fries were actually free since they accidentally burned Noah’s pizza and we had to wait while they made another.

As you might suspect, the truth is that countless establishments around Minneapolis have good sweet potato fries. Why Chatterbox then? Because they have something on their menu that no where else does:

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GAMES! I am lover of board games, and Noah is a lover of video games. So, clearly, this place was a win-win. While we waited for the food, we perused the board games collection:

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We selected Othello. I had never played, and Noah had only played a few times, so we reviewed the rules and went for it. The game is played with black and white discs, and the objective is to end the game with more of your color discs on the board than your opponent. It starts like this:

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This is what it looks like after Noah makes a big mistake (I am white):

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This is what it looks like when I end up losing in the end anyway:

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If that didn’t make sense to you, look up the rules online because I don’t understand them well enough to articulate in a blog post. 🙂 As the game was ending, our food arrived. I got the ‘South by Southwest’ sandwich which was chicken breast, black bean spread, cheddar cheese, guacamole, roasted onions and peppers, and cilantro pesto on focaccia. Actually, the sandwich came on ciabatta, but I swapped the bread.

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The sandwich was tasty, but definitely a heavy meal – not a ‘light’ lunch sandwich – and not something I am rushing back to get again. Noah got a cheese and chicken pizza which he liked but was also a bit much:

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Of course, we Noah couldn’t leave without testing at least one video game, so he visited Q*bert on our way out.

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He was very focused…total concentration even when I tried my best to distract…

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It paid off though since Noah received the 4th highest score after only playing it a few times! Congrats, Noah – you are famous!!!

Overall verdict for Chatterbox: The environment is really fun and unique and the sweet potato fries are top notch, but otherwise the food is nothing amazing. I would say that this is a good spot if you’re looking for a fun date location, but if you want quality food and a nicer meal, put your money elsewhere.

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Sumi-e

Watercolor class this week was all about Sumi-e, an Asian style of painting. The art form is well over a thousand years old, and in its purest form is intended to be a meditative art that captures the essence of a picture using the fewest number of brush strokes possible. But, in the words of my wise and witty art teacher, “Who has the time for that?” For class, we focused on using Sumi-e simply as a method for getting paint on paper.

There are four primary objects painted in Sumi-e. The four objects – orchid, bamboo, plum blossom, and chrysanthemum – are also referred to as ‘the four gentlemen’.’ During class, I worked on bamboo:

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And plum blossoms:

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I especially enjoyed working on the bamboo and figuring out how to make the outside edges of the stalks darker than the middle. Given that we were working on an Asian art form, the art teacher thought it apropos to hand out fortune cookies during class:

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My two fortunes read:

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I’ll take it. 🙂

Smiles in the Mail

Typically, the mail I get consists of the following:

  • credit card advertisements
  • politicians soliciting donations
  • Rainbow Grocery’s latest sales catalog

Yeah, not too exciting. So imagine my delight when I got one two three exciting deliveries in the mail this week! The first, was a beautiful Valentine’s Day card from my family.

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My mom wrote that she thought it would be perfect for me. It was. 🙂 Thanks, family! The second surprise arrival came from Penguin Publishing, which gave me a clue that it was probably from my dear and talented friend who works for them. Little did I know that the package contained pure girl power with a super hero punch.

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Yep, that’s an advance reader copy of The Ultra Violets by Sophie Bell (published by Razorbill, shout out!) With the book came a delightful letter from the Razorbill team, telling me that they knew I would like this book given my affinity for purple guns, glittery girls, smarties – the nerdy kind – and fun. How do they know me so well?! The letter also pinky promised me that it’s a viomazing read. I am holding them to that.

The third and final smile to arrive in the mail this week was the February Bestowed package.

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For anyone who missed by January Bestowed package post, Bestowed is a monthly delivery program created by author and nutritionist Heather Bauer. The monthly packages include food and healthy living products selected for their nutritional strengths and general deliciousness. The February package was full of exciting goodies.

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A look inside…

Nature Made VitaMelts Zinc – Described as a smooth-dissolving option for those who have difficulty swallowing vitamins (ahem, ME!), these tablets provide 100% of your daily value of zinc. I had a few already, and they taste really good!
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22 Days Nutrition Bar – This bar is gluten, dairy, and soy free, packed with protein, and made of organic ingredients. That’s enough to sell me! The flavor I received was pb chocolate chip:
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Simply Snackin Jerky – I will admit, I’m not really a jerky girl. Something about the texture, smell, and general idea of it (meat in a bag that’s not refrigerated?!) doesn’t really appeal to me. Needless to say, the jerky sticks were the item in the package that made me the least excited. Still, this particular jerky is all natural with no MSG, fillers, or trans fats. The flavors – teriyaki chicken with mango and papaya and beef sirloin with apples and cherries – were interesting. I don’t know if I’ll work myself up to actually trying them, but for now I am content to let them sit in my cupboard.
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Nuttzo – Given how I feel about peanut butter, this was definitely the package’s highlight! Nuttzo is made with seven different 100% organic nuts and seeds and has no added sugars or oils. Also, a portion of Nuttzo’s profits go to Project Left Behind, a nonprofit that provides for orphans around the world.
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Green and Black’s Dark Chocolate (70%) – The final item in February’s Bestowed package was another can’t-go-wrong food: chocolate. Green and Black’s is an organic chocolate company that vows to bring consumers environmentally-conscious and responsibly manufactured products. In addition to a small bar of 70% dark chocolate, I also received a coupon for $1.50 off a bar at the store.
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There you have it – February’s Bestowed package!

Make sure to check out previous Bestowed package posts:January 2013

Matzah Balls

I know passover isn’t for another few weeks, but after making yesterday’s crock pot chicken soup, I couldn’t help wanting matzah balls to go with. For anyone who doesn’t know, matzah is an unleavened bread traditionally eaten during the Jewish holiday of Passover, and matzah balls are basically soup dumplings made from matzah meal (group up matzah) and eggs. This was my first attempt making them on my on, and I can’t say I got it quite right. The matzah balls were a little dense, and they definitely didn’t have the soft deliciousness of my Mom’s (you make the best matzah ball soup, Mom!).

I set 10 cups of water to boil on the stove:

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Meanwhile, I beat three egg whites until stiff (tried to use my hand for this but quickly gave up and used the hand mixer):

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pre-mixer

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post-mixer

I folded in the 3 egg yolks and 3/4 cup matzah meal:

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I let the mixture stand for 5 minutes, and then formed into balls and dropped into the boiling water:

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I let the matzah balls cook, covered, for thirty minutes. Once they were done, I put them in a tupperware to serve with the chicken soup throughout the week:

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Like I said, they were a little denser than I would have liked. I think these particular matzah balls would sink better than they would float if you know what I mean.

Question: Any matzah ball makers out there? Do you have suggestions for me? I’m grateful for your tips in the comments section!

Crock Pot Chicken Soup

The crock pot made an appearance in my kitchen last night. Or, more specifically, all night. One joy of the crockpot is that it’s okay to put it up right before bed because nothing bad will happen when you leave it to cook all night long. I made chicken soup that followed the Hungry Chick Chunky Soup recipe from Hungry Girl pretty closely. full recipe below

Preparation for the recipe consists of compiling all ingredients, throwing them together in the crockpot, and letting them cook for hours. Simple, right?

First, slice chicken and chop carrots and onion:

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Gather chicken broth, cannellini beans, stewed tomatoes, cabbage, seasonings, and frozen peas:

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Combine in a crockpot and cook on low for 8 hours:

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Wake up in the morning to a delicious smelling kitchen:

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Crockpot Chicken Soup
serves 5
Ingredients
- 1.25 lbs chicken breasts
- 2 carrots
- 1 onion
- 2.5 cups chopped coleslaw mix
- 14.5 oz can cannellini beans
- 14.5 oz can stewed tomatoes
- 1 cup frozen peas
- several liberal shakes thyme
- 2 small bay leaves
- 3 cups chicken broth
Method
Combine all ingredients plus 1 cup water in a crockpot.
Cook on low for 8 hours. Once cooked, shred chicken before serving.

The Love Tour: Valentine’s Day at the Zoo

Sorry for a couple-day hiatus in writing – I was out of town for the weekend, and Thursday night I had no time to blog due to the fact that I was on the greatest Valentine’s Day date ever!

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‘The Love Tour: Mating rituals that might make you blush,’ run through the Minnesota Zoo as a fundraiser for their conservation programs. First of all, this date was a complete and total surprise, planned by the fabulous Noah. I will admit I had pretty high expectations since I had been hearing comments like “I’m so excited for Valentine’s Day” since last March, but this completely exceeded even my highest hopes.

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What made this the greatest Valentine’s Day date ever? See for yourself…

First, we got to the zoo (I was immediately excited since I love the zoo but still didn’t really know what was going on). We went inside, and were greeted by friendly zoo staff and champagne.

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Waiters came by with appetizers – mini polenta cakes and lettuce wraps with strip steak and pico de gallo:

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That was about when I learned that we would be having a Tropics Trail Tour to learn all about the mating rituals and practices of animals. A delicious dinner follows the tour. Sneak peak at the dining room:

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While we’re waiting for the tour to begin, there’s plenty of entertainment (besides the food and champagne) to keep us occupied.

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I think I’m better at boggle, but these games were fun. 🙂 After much anticipation, the tour began, and it was SO interesting/fun/funny/greatest time ever. The zookeepers leading the tours all volunteered their time for the event, and our guide told us that the keepers really enjoy the event since they don’t usually get to talk about mating rituals with their regular tour groups (ie, elementary school groups). Heading into the tropics, our first visit was to the ring-tailed lemurs:

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a little hard to see, but the lemur is sitting on the branch in the top middle area of the picture

Male lemurs rub their mating smelliness all over their tails and then wave their tails around to attract females. This lemur was sweet enough to have decorated his pen for us:

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how thoughtful

Next up was the rhinoceros hornbill:

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For anyone who says that monogamous relationships are unnatural for animals, they should meet a rhinoceros hornbill. These birds mate for life, and they can live for up to 90 years. What’s more, the female completely trusts the male to stay with and provide for her, as the mother stays inside a tree trunk for the entire egg-incubation time period. The male brings her food and all of the supplies for the nest. Even more faithful, though, are African Penguins. What makes African Penguins incredible is that no instance of dual-partnership has ever been recorded in the wild. Not a single one. Wow!

on the trail

on the trail

Next up were tropical fish:

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We learned that zebra sharks are one of the few species that have ever been recorded to reproduce asexually. Female zebra sharks have reproduced alone. A Jesus-shark (as noted by our tour group), if you will.

zebra shark

zebra shark

Although sad for the tour to end, I was excited to get to dinner, especially after seeing there was a live band!

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Our table number was number 38…

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…and there were salads and a bread basket waiting for us when we arrived:

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The salad was delicious with grapefruit, feta, and toasted almonds. For the main course, we were served beef tenderloin, cod, asparagus, and potatoes:

holy yum

holy yum

I took my fish home with me since I still needed room for dessert.

fish to-go

fish to-go

Dessert was honestly one of the best things I have ever had. I don’t think Noah loved it quite as much, but I am way more of a chocolate person (all you ladies out there, say heyyyy). 🙂

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Molten lava caked with chopped pistachios and fresh whipped cream (the whipped cream seemed to have a little espresso flavor). This was so good.

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Obviously. 🙂

We even got treats to go in the form of two truffles from Max’s, the sponsoring organization.

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Overall, this was hands down the best Valentine’s Day I could have imagined. Thank you, Noah – you’re my African Penguin. ❤

Breakfast in Jars and a Public Declaration

For the last two days, I’ve been experimenting with oats in a jar variations to make – more simply – breakfast in a jar.

Yesterday: Last bits of Hell’s Kitchen peanut butter plus granola, ricotta, and almond milk, soaked overnight. Sprinkled with cinnamon in the morning.

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Today’s breakfast: last bits of raspberry jam plus granola, ricotta, cashew butter, and almond milk, soaked overnight and sprinkled with cinnamon in the morning. Apple on the side.

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Obviously, I am the type of person who – after liking something – wants it again! ‘Breakfast in jars’ is a winner for me right now, and you should do it too! Benefits of breakfast in jars include:

1. You don’t waste any of the last bits of jam/nut butter/(fill in the contents of your favorite jar).
2. Granola, oats, nuts, and dried fruit all taste amazing after being soaked in milky deliciousness overnight.
3. It is beautiful! I love seeing the yummy swirls through the jar’s glass in the morning.
4. It’s something to look forward to when you finish a jar off – besides scraping the insides in an attempt to get it in recyclable condition, that is.

Moral of the story – if you make breakfast in a jar, you will be happy.

In other news…I have a public declaration to make.

I will be taking a one week hiatus from running.

I needed to put that out on the blogosphere to keep myself accountable. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I have been having some knee/IT band/hamstring/weak butt issues for the last several months. I’ve gone to the doc, been doing physical therapy, tried new shoes, and more new shoes.

Unfortunately, the issues still persist, and every time I try to add mileage back in things start to flare up again. I’ve decided that what I might need is some actual rest from running, rather than just ‘taking it easy.‘ I know it will be hard to stick to my guns on this one, but I’m committing to doing only low-impact activities for the next week. Give me your support!

Do you have any suggestions on good stress-relieving but still low-impact cardio? If you do, please share in the comments section!