Congrats, Michael and Rachel!

9 Apr

I can think of nothing better to do with this space for this week than to wish a hearty Mazel Tov to my brother, Michael, and new sister-in-law, Rachel, on their wedding this past Sunday.

We’ve all had the pleasure of watching their relationship grow and develop over the past 11 years, and it was so lovely watching them celebrate their marriage this weekend at the beautiful Drake Hotel in Chicago.

They’re officially married now!

 

 

Michael and Rachel relax for a minute before going into the reception.

Michael and Rachel’s friends brought fun props and prepared skits to entertain the bride and groom. Photo by Shane Welch Photography.

 

A beautiful picture, taken by their professional photographer, Shane Welch Photography, at the end of the night.

 

 

Staycation: Winter 2014 style!

2 Apr

As I mentioned last week, a staycation wasn’t exactly the vacation my friend Lindsey and I had originally planned. As much fun as a long weekend with sun and sand would have been, I think we both agreed that a weekend in the Windy City (maybe we should start calling it the Windy Freezing Wintry Mixing Chilly City?) was a big success.

Eataly

The staycation weekend kicked off with a delicious lunch at Eataly Chicago. The first description I heard of Eataly was that it was almost like an Italian theme park; and from that moment, I was sold. It looks like the owner of a department store was in the mood to reinvent the store but was also ravenous, so he built this monstrous collection of the finest Italians foods. We enjoyed looking around at the vegetables, desserts, panini (it’s plural already, so no need to write “paninis”), pizzas, pastas, meats, wine, and more.

I enjoyed a delicious neopolitan pizza — my favorite kind! — a thin, mushy center with a soft, chewy crust; Lindsey enjoyed her  penne rigata alla norma.

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And for dessert — oh, the desserts. I could move in to this place and live on the desserts. Lindsey had soft-serve gelato (I’d never seen that before) and I had a croissant with Nutella from the Nutella station. Can you believe it — a Nutella station? It’s as if someone called ahead and tipped this place off that I’d be coming in.

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Art Institute

What weekend in Chicago would be complete without a bit of culture? We decided to spend some time in this beautiful museum — and with our student IDs (thank you, Spertus!) and Illinois IDs, it was only $12 for each of us. We enjoyed the modern wing as well as the older, more famous pieces. And then, we went to my favorite part — the gift shop!

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Bourgeois Pig

For dinner, we went to one of my favorites — the Bourgeois Pig. It’s a cute restaurant in Lincoln Park that has a side for sandwiches and breakfast items and a side for coffee and cookies (but don’t worry, you can go from side to side). Whenever I go there, I feel sophisticated and straight out of an F. Scott Fitzgerald book.

The Bourgeois Pig led me to a life philosophy: If a restaurant advertises a “quiche of the day,” don’t ask questions. Just order the quiche of the day. At the Bourgeois Pig, it’s usually some kind of spinach or broccoli cheese (I’m very upset when it’s some kind of ham) and it’s delicious.

 

Million Dollar Quartet

It’s not every day that I get first-hand proof that I was born in the wrong decade. But when watching plays like “Million Dollar Quartet,” I realize that the music of the ’90s and today — as great as Taylor Swift and Backstreet Boys are — is just not like it used to be. In Million Dollar Quartet, playing at the Apollo Theater in Lincoln Park, we got to watch a live jam session featuring Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins. It reminded me a lot of “Jersey Boys” — I knew the songs before, but this really made them come to life. We walked out tapping our toes and I don’t know that I’ll ever get “Great Balls of Fire” out of my head. It was a great end to a fantastic Thursday.

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Chicago’s Finest Tours: Pedway Tour

We began our Friday with a walking tour of the pedway system — the underground area that runs through much of downtown Chicago. We learned about the pedway and about Chicago in general. What do the four stars on Chicago’s flag mean? Why were location and transportation so important to Chicago’s history? How many people died in the Chicago Fire? Who were Lafayette and Joliet? Go on this tour for yourself to get the answers to these and many more questions, plus see some great buildings and secret passageways you never knew existed.

Lindsey and I were so engrossed in the tour that we forgot to take a picture while on the tour, but here’s one of us afterward.

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SpaceTime Tanks

After the walking tour, we went to relax in a sensory deprivation tank. No need to bore you with this one again; if you missed it last week, read all about our time in the tanks here.

 

Houston Ballet’s performance of Aladdin

Our staycation came to a close on Saturday night when we went to the ballet. I had never been to a ballet before, so I was prepared either to love it or to use it as good napping time. It turns out, a bit to my surprise, that I loved it. The dancers performed Aladdin, but not that one. It was the original tale from Arabian Nights, where there’s no Jafar and no Jasmine, but instead a Maghreb and Princess Badroulbadour. The story is a bit different, there’s no talking bird, and there’s no toe-tapping rendition of “Friend Like Me,” but there is a flying carpet, which was pretty cool. With the help of the synopsis in the Playbill, we were able to understand the story and watch the dancers move gracefully in their beautiful costumes. I wonder why my dancing career never really took off.

And with our student IDs, tickets were only $15 each (again, thanks, Spertus!). I could even see myself doing it again sometime.

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It was an incredible two and a half days — full of food, art, dance, history, culture, and relaxation. Lindsey, thanks for being a great co-staycationer; can’t wait to do it again!

Tanks a lot.

26 Mar

spacetime tanksThere I was, on a Friday afternoon, floating in a pitch-black tank filled with 10 inches of water and 800 pounds of salt, stressing out about earplugs, and trying to relax.

(How’s that for catching your attention?)

Dear readers, you may be shocked to hear this; but last week, I decided to try something NEW.

When my friend Lindsey and I thought about taking a mini vacation over spring break, we were thinking along the lines of a trip to Mexico, the Dominican Republic, or a Caribbean cruise. But when our wallets, our calendars, and our mothers disagreed, we decided to go with a new plan: A Chicago Staycation. I’ll write more about the staycation as a whole next week, but for now, I’d like to focus on one part of our staycation in particular.

If we had been in Mexico, we would have spent most of our time relaxing on the beach. What’s a way to do something similar in cold, winter-in-March Chicago? One idea popped into my head: A sensory deprivation tank.

I first heard about the sensory deprivation tank from my friend Josh. He said it was an incredible experience that was almost impossible to describe; you had to experience it for yourself. My interest was piqued, and so was Lindsey’s when we planned our staycation. We booked our flotation tank appointments.

On Friday afternoon, we had been instructed to eat a snack beforehand so as not to focus on our hunger in the tank. With scrambled eggs in my belly and and a tuna melt in Lindsey’s, we arrived at SpaceTime Tanks in Lincoln Park, not knowing what to expect. We were instructed to take off our shoes and wait in the dark, calm waiting room. The owner then showed us into a room where we were given detailed instructions on how to make the most of our flotation experience.

When our rooms were ready, Lindsey and I waved goodbye and went into our separate rooms. Or at least I thought I was waving goodbye to her; I was told to take out my contact lenses, so I couldn’t see much of anything.

In each room was a shower and a tank that looked almost like a very long file cabinet. I rinsed off in the shower and then put in earplugs — we were told that without earplugs, we’d get salt in our ears. I opened the door and entered the tank, which was filled with 10 inches of water and 800 pounds of salt. Like the Dead Sea, with that much salt, your body immediately floats. I closed the door and it was pitch black.

I had a whole hour to float, close my eyes, relax, and enjoy having my brain freed of the senses of sound (earplugs), smell (you just have to get used to the salt smell), sight (opening my eyes and closing my eyes were the same), taste (don’t swallow the water!), and touch (floating in water set to around 94 degrees causes the body to feel weightless and like it’s not touching anything).

And now, for your reading pleasure, I present to you: Lia’s Thoughts During the Flotation Tank Hour

Alright. Time to relax. After a stressful week, this is my time to just be alone with my thoughts.

Or wait, was I supposed to NOT have thoughts?

My earplugs are falling out. Did I not put them in right? Does my ear canal go up or down? Why don’t these earplugs fit me? I should have practiced before I came here. Why didn’t they warn me I’d need to be certified in Earplugs 101?

Try to relax, Lia.

Maybe I should push the earplugs back in. But no, then the salt will be pushed deeper and deeper into my ear! I will have salty ears all week!

Clear your thoughts. Ohmmm…

Aw, what the heck, I’ll just take the earplugs out. Wait, where are they? Oh haha, they must have fallen out of my ears 10 minutes ago. 

I wonder how much time has passed.

Okay, NOW I’ll really be able to relax.

I bet Lindsey’s earplugs stayed in her ears. Ridiculous.

It sure is dark in here. But I think I can still hear things. Is that the receptionist answering the phone? Maybe that’s what the earplugs were for, drowning out the sounds.

Do they make brainplugs? To drown out my thoughts? Go away, thoughts!

Well, if I’m in here thinking anyway, I might as well be productive. The lady at the front desk said many writers will come here when they have writer’s block and need to think of new ideas. I wonder what I’ll blog about next week. Maybe this! Yeah, I’ll write about how I keep thinking of things when I’m trying to let my mind be blank. But other than that, I can’t think of any new blog ideas. And even if I did, how would I remember them? I can’t write them down in here.

I feel like I’m in a Seinfeld episode. This is totally the kind of thing that would happen to Elaine.

When’s the last time I watched Seinfeld? I can’t believe I’m two episodes behind on Glee. Here I am, floating in here for an hour, when I could be catching up on Glee.

They should totally put TVs in these things.

Floating is fun. My skin feels soft. This reminds me, I should really go swimming. I wonder if I know anyone with an indoor pool. 

I’m going to close my eyes now. Wonder if I’ll fall asleep.

[5 minutes later]

Nope, not asleep. I wonder what would happen if I rolled onto my side. 

Weird.

Or my stomach.

Ooh, this is nice!

I’ll go back on my back. My head feels like it’s going to fall in. Is my head too heavy? I’ll rest my head on my hands. Oh, this is nice. 

Is the time up yet? How long have I been here? I could probably get out now. But I’ll give it some more time.

Ahh…relax…

About 30 minutes later, my time was up. I showered, got dressed, and put in my contacts. I put on my shoes and my coat, and I walked back into the real world. The world where, even while I was in the tank, taxis were picking up passengers, restaurants were serving waffle fries, and people were buying movie tickets. I had to turn on my brain to preparing for the lunch I was hosting the next day, thinking about when I would do my reading for grad school, and wondering when I’m going to get the time to clean my apartment.

And in a way, I wished I could have had another hour in the tank.

Happy birthday, Destiny!

19 Mar

My name is never on a magnet at the souvenir shops.

I’m sure this wasn’t a major consideration for my parents when choosing my name, and it’s not entirely traumatic; but it’s something that I’ve had to deal with my whole life.

Sometimes the stores have “Leah” stickers or “Lee” license plates; but never “Lia.” It’s just how life has been, and I’ve compensated for it in other ways, like getting excited to get an American Girl doll that looked just like me (and even came with a Chanukah outfit!). So in general, I guess, I had a pretty good childhood and didn’t think too much about the stores full of magnets of Sarahs, Rebeccas, and Rachels, but no Lias.

2014-03-13 18.37.07But last week, while at Party City (obviously buying a Purim costume; why else would anyone go to Party City in March?), a display caught my eye. It was a display of “Singing Happy Birthday Cards” — cutesy cards with boys’ and girls’ names on them, and when you open the card, you’re jolted awake with a birthday song.

Not sure why I like to inflict pain on myself, but I decided to do a little search. Where were the “L” girl cards? Ah, here they are. Or … here it is. Just Lauren. The only “L” girl name was Lauren. No Laura, no Linda, no Lydia, no Lanie, and certainly no Lia.

Curiously, I looked through the rest of the girl names. They don’t make Lindsey, Leora, or Lena, but they do have Brianna, Jordan (for both boys and girls), and Jasmine. No Lexie, Lila, or Lori, but they do have Savannah, Madison, and Morgan.

And my favorite: Destiny (is her Hebrew name “beshert”?)!

I guess for now, I’ll have to settle with “Happy Birthday Special Daughter” or “Happy Birthday Lil’ Princess.”

Or, for my next birthday, you can get me four “Happy 7th Birthday” cards and I’ll just do the math on my end.

Happy birthday, Destiny, Taylor, and Victoria!

Guest post from my dad: “Outlawing the seasons”

12 Mar

Please enjoy this guest post from my dad, who, like many of us, has a lot to say on the topic of weather. When he’s not guest blogging here, Jonathan Lehrer can be found blogging at mrcommunicator.com, working as the president of Jonathan Lehrer Communications, Inc., writing Purim Schpiels, and just being generally funny.

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Another thousand or so inches of snow are expected in Chicago today.

This, of course, is a violation of the Seasonal Contract, an agreement we all have implicitly signed with the Weather Gods of the Windy City. I agreed to endure snow and freezing cold for parts of November, December, January and February. The Weather Gods agreed to make it all stop by early March.

The Weather Gods have failed me and I’m none too happy about it.

For me (and you, probably) the “polar vortex” has inexorably led to “municipal depression,” a kind of citywide sadness that is not alleviated by the 15 minutes of sun we catch every once in a while.

Working in my near-freezing basement office yesterday, and trying to get my core temperature somewhere close to normal, I daydreamed that Rahm Emanuel devised a solution.

Fresh from the polar plunge he recently shared with “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon the mayor got an idea.

“We are outlawing the seasons,” said Emanuel in my daydream. “Words like ‘spring,’ and ‘summer’ have no consistent meaning here, so I will be asking the City Council to make them illegal in Chicago.” Emanuel explained that his ice-induced brainstorm would be beneficial to the Chicago Office of Tourism, which until now has had a tough time extolling the virtues of our city for a good part of the year.

After a three-minute discussion, the City Council voted 50-0 to adopt the mayor’s proposal.

The ordinance requires that each day have a weather designation, but we are no longer allowed to say things like “This winter really sucks.”

In the old system, I would look at the calendar and start getting my hopes up for good weather around this time…in mid March. Too often I have been bitterly (i.e., bone-chillingly) disappointed.

Keeping in mind that the Hebrew translation of Emanuel’s name is “God is with us” the mayor’s new system simply prevents me from actually hoping for good weather. Instead, every tomorrow is a new surprise.

For example, in a week that might include extremes such as Arctic Hell, Blistering Sun and Unbelievable Winds, a day described simply as Tolerable would be a pleasant surprise. And its memories would sustain me for the next two days of, perhaps, Gray Slush and Puddle Splashing.

In mid-August, when I am sweating and watching my front lawn wither away, I may try to cool off by fondly remembering the last day designated as Arctic Hell.

Wait, who am I kidding? At the rate we’re going, my front lawn will still be under two feet of snow in August.

But at least I won’t be allowed to say “This summer really sucks.”

Happy 177th birthday, Chicago!

5 Mar

The city of Chicago turned 177 yesterday (though it doesn’t look a day older than 29!). To celebrate this special day, I present this list of items that I would like to buy Chicago in honor of its birthday.

chicagoLia’s birthday gifts for Chicago:

  • Dozens of blog entries about its beauty
  • Describing Chicago as “God’s gift to the world” to everyone I meet
  • Regular donations in Chicago’s name to charity–er, parking meters
  • An apartment that displays six framed pictures of Chicago in various capacities, including this picture to the right
  • Yearly pilgrimages to Mecca (aka the Chicago History Museum)

Now, I don’t recall Chicago getting ME any gifts for my birthday. There’s always next year (as we are used to saying in Chicago) — so, city that I love, here’s what YOU can get ME this coming October.

Chicago’s birthday gifts for Lia:

  • Reserved parking spots in every neighborhood
  • A deep dish pizza made up of one slice from each of the top eight Chicago pizza restaurants
  • A handshake with Mayor Emanuel (if you don’t get it, you’re not from Chicago)
  • Filling at least half of the millions of pot holes

Happy birthday, dear friend.

New developments in ice cream

26 Feb

I know last week I posted about how I’m trying to eat healthful foods, but when there’s a ground-shattering invention in the world of junk food, I have to blog about it.

Ben & Jerry’s has come up with the next big thing since — well, pints of ice cream?

It’s a pint of ice cream with a “core” center of caramel, fudge, or jam. Amazing. Genius.

ben and jerry's

See the full article here.

So, friends … what WILL they think of next?

  • Soft-serve ice cream that already has sprinkles in it?
  • Pints of ice cream with little hidden vegetables to force kids and Lias to eat better?
  • Ice cream sundaes that come with hot fudge, sprinkles, a cherry, and a gym membership?
  • Ice cream sandwiches that come in sandwich bags? (Great for on-the-go!)

Come on, scientists with a sweet tooth … keep the great inventions coming.

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