Sunday, October 28, 2012


Those who know me in real life are probably sick of hearing about this, but I'm excited so I am going to post about it and you can just skip it.  I won't be offended :-)

The "it" and "this" I'm referring to is becoming a Jamberry Nails consultant.  If you've never heard of Jamberry Nails, then you're just like I was 2 weeks ago.  I was invited to an online Jamberry party, and decided to ignore it because I had no idea was Jamberry Nails were, nor the inclination to go find out.  But somehow I eventually noticed what they were, and then I got QUITE interested.  It is one of my dearest wishes to have always-pretty nails, but trying to accomplish that puts me in direct odds with one of my most important priorities, which is to expose myself to as few harmful chemicals in my beauty regimen as possible.  "Real" nail polish and the nail polish remover that it requires are, as we chemists like to put it, yucky.  Plus I am not good at doing my own nails, I ALWAYS immediately mess up at least 2 of my nails as they're drying, and within 2 days my nails are all chipped and ugly again anyway.  I have gotten the Piggy Polish natural nail polish for my girls (plus various other kinds) and they don't even last a day without flaking off.  I love getting manicures, but again, yucky chemicals, pricey, you still can't keep your nails looking perfect without having them done every week (which is bad for your nails), and if you want french tips or any designs it costs even more than a regular manicure.

Jamberry Nails are little vinyl "shields" that you peel off, heat up with a blow dryer, and apply to your nails with pressure, then just file them down like you would your natural nails.  They take slightly longer than nail polish to put on  (about 20 minutes the first time), but they look adorable and last for 2 weeks, so I feel like it's actually worth the effort.  I won't pretend that vinyl is awesome for the environment, but it IS much better for you than all the volatile organic compounds found in nail polish that you breathe in and absorb through your skin.

2 weeks of super-cute nails that are cheap and require no artistic skill?  Sign me up!

I ordered 4 sheets of nails, and applied the Halloween ones as soon as they arrived.  Once they had been on for 3 days and I could see for myself how good they looked and how well they lasted, and I went to order a bunch more.

Love 'em

However, as I was loading up my online shopping cart, I realized that for just about $20 more I could become a consultant and get free nails all the time, tell everyone I know about them and possibly even make some money.

So now I'm a consultant!  At first I figured I would just aim to make back the cost of the consultant start-up kit ($99) and consider myself lucky if I made any more money above and beyond that.  But then I started to think about all the possibilities and figured if I was going to give this a shot, I might as well REALLY give it a shot!

So that's how I find myself signed up to host a party at my house and sell at a bridal show, a holiday "boutique" and a firefighter quartermania bingo in the next couple weeks.  As if the holidays aren't full enough to begin with!

But I've always thought it might be nice to be able to bring in a bit of money while still being at  home for my kids.  Unfortunately, chemistry is not really a work-from-home profession, and I never came across anything in the direct sales category that I actually WANTED to sell.  But I'm surprised at how quickly this idea grew into something I knew I wanted to do, and how many opportunities have popped up already!

And I still get a chance to use my chemistry degree at home occasionally too.  In fact my husband just called down the stairs and said he's scared of the drain cleaner I bought so I guess I go get to "perform some chemistry" right now!  I'm used to doing science on his behalf though.  I've been doing it ever since we were 12 and I offered to pull the heart out of his frog in science class because he was too grossed out :-)

P.S. That stuff was LEGIT!  I don't know what they're doing selling it at Wal Mart.  I have a couple little acid burns on my arm right now, I feel like a real chemist again!  Good thing I'm not using chemicals in my nail polish too :-)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Chicago trip, part the third

Read part 1 here
Read part 2 here

After our somewhat disappointing lunch, we walked back across the city to our hotel.  The day was still dreary, so we were glad to get back to the hotel and dry off.  We also found the "bars that ding when the wind blows through them" that Will and I had seen on a previous trip.  I had completely forgotten about them, probably from all the sake I had consumed beforehand.  They were neat though, like big old wind chimes.

After Will worked out with his TRX in the hotel room (and I took a nap), we got dressed, had another drink in Big Bar,

then we hopped a cab (the only one we had to take!) up to Lincoln Park for our dinner at North Pond restaurant.  
My hair did NOT like the humidity

It has a pretty view and neat little trails to wander around it, which was good because they weren't open yet when we got there :-(

Once we got inside, we were quickly seated and decided we were in the mood to share a hard cider.

Beautiful decor!

Our menus had a cute little surprise on them!

It was a couple days before our 9th anniversary, but we weren't going to be able to celebrate on the day of, so it was nice :-)

Sorry about the terrible pictures, all I had was my phone.  I couldn't decide which was worse, super-dark pictures or hideously flashed-out pictures so you'll see a nice mix of the two here.

First came an amuse bouche of chicken mushroom paté with pureed apple, which even Will liked.  We didn't share this one because we each got one!

Dark blob 

Next I ordered:

Seared Duck Foie Gras, Cranberry-Pistachio Tartelette, Maple-Kabocha Purée, Baby Turnip, Celery, Cranberry Gelée, Pistachio

I had to order the foie gras of course.  Will grudgingly shared it with me, and I think he actually even liked it a little :-)  He ate the whole cornbread for me.

Will started with:

Soft-Boiled Farm Egg, Spin Rossa Polenta, Green Beans, Cherry Tomatoes, French Fingerlings, Herb Emulsion

 For salads:

Candied Baby Gold, Red, White and Chioggia Beets;  Cured King Salmon, Albacore Tuna Pastrami, Flatbread, Walnuts

I don't have a flowery description for this one, since it's not listed on the website :-)  As I recall, it was crab poppyseeds and kiwi in a little cake topped with radishes and surrounded by cucumber broth and cantaloupe (and apparently some little yellow flowers).

For dinner:

Grilled Boneless Loin, Black Fig Lyonnaise Sausage, Oregon Chanterelle Mushroom Ragout, Fig Marmalade, Leek, Fig Syrup

Grilled Wild Striped Filet, Brown Sugar-Braised Pork Belly, Celeriac, Baby Carrots, Purple Potatoes, Lemon-Chowder Emulsion

The ONLY complaint I had about this whole meal was that the fish was a little too blackened on the outside for my liking.  The bitterness was too strong for me, but Will didn't mind it.

We didn't order dessert, but they brought us some anyway!

Those blobs are little cornbread cookies  (which I did, indeed, take a bite of) and little raspberry gumdrop things.  When I saw the gumdrops I mentioned to Will that I had found a recipe for these on Pinterest back around Easter that I had meant to try out, and Will felt very betrayed that I had possessed this knowledge for months without telling him or making him any :-)

The dinner was delicious and very romantic, we were surrounded mostly by couples, even some who were celebrating anniversaries like us!

We taxi-ed back to town (I guess technically that's 2 taxi rides) and went to bed blissfully early.

On Sunday after another tasty hotel breakfast and some packing we headed to the airport.  I was finally able to get some more juice there, when we discovered our gate was right across from a Jamba Juice.  I had fresh squeezed orange/carrot blended up with a banana (fresh squeezed juice blended with whole fruit = delicious and genius) and I got Will an orange/carrot blended with berries.  We also split a double wheatgrass juice shot.  BLECH.  

After our extremely bumpy flight where they never turned off the fasten seatbelt sign (and yelled at me for getting up to pee when the freakin' plane stopped 10ft short of the gate and I just couldn't wait anymore), we were home!  I almost pulled a Gerard Depardieu  and peed in the aisle, but all turned out well in the end.

We spent the rest of the day stopping by the Rockville Whole Foods (huge, but ANNOYING PARKING!) then driving around retrieving our children and charges.  By the evening we were all home, fed, and tucked into bed (or in Max's case, locked and barricaded behind several doors in the basement).

All in all, a super-fun trip that has me looking forward to the future trips we have planned!

Chicago trip, part the second

Read Part 1 here

After visiting Fox and Obel twice in the first day, it was time to go re-acquaint ourselves with some of our other favorite places in Chicago.  We grabbed a drink at "Big Bar" in our hotel to start the evening out. 

I was pleased to discover a tasty GAPS-legal drink, which was grapefruit juice, honey and Jim Beam.  I know it PROBABLY wasn't fresh-squeezed lemon juice, but I did what I could.

First up was Rock Bottom Brewery....

...the skybar, of course!

Will and I settled into the best seat in the house for people-watching, and it soon became the coziest seat in the house as well when the owner came over and turned on the fire for us.

After quizzing the waitress on the ingredients, I ordered a bloody mary that was quite tasty.

Have you EVER seen a photo that begs harder to be Instagram-ed?  I had to figure out how to use it just so I could over-process the crap out of this picture :-)

Next on our agenda was Sushi Samba!  

They're so hip it hurts
 We ordered our starter drinks, and I was thrilled to find that they could make me a Pisco Sour (my FAVORITEST drink of all time) with honey instead of simple syrup!  This was practically GAPS-legal too, as long as you figure that wine is legal and vodka is legal and Pisco is hard liquor made out of grapes so it must be legal by extension.  And assuming they used organic local free range pastured egg whites and organic lemons.  Whatever.

Will got a lovely purple drink called a Chicha Sour.

Then we were on to appetizers.  We ordered the assortment of 4 ceviches, and the seaweed salad.  After tasting these I didn't even care anymore if some of the stuff in them wasn't quite GAPS.  Every one was frickin' amazing.

The ceviches we chose were:

Jumbo shrimp passionfruit cucumber cilantro
Tuna grapefruit juice jalapeno almond
Salmon blood orange tomato
Yellowtail jalapeno lemongrass

I could've left after just these and been happy, but we stayed and gorged ourselves on even more delicious food.

I had the sashimi plate, and Will had the bowl of Peruvian "big corn" and 3 handrolls MADE WITH RED QUINOA INSTEAD OF RICE!!!

And because our sides weren't groaning enough with all of that, we also shared a duck breast.  More appropriately, the best duck breast I've ever tasted.

Wish I could cook 'em like this at home
The only thing not absolutely perfect about our meal was that we found out their Sunday brunch doesn't start until 11 so we'd have to miss it in order to make our flight home.  AGAIN.  One day though, one day.

After dinner we made our way back to our hotel, and came across a massive gathering along the way.  We debated checking it out, but when we passed the front gates and saw that it was an oysterfest we decided to just keep on walking.  I will scarf down raw fish like nobody's business, but I just haven't learned how to like oysters yet.

 I think I was scarred for life as a child by my mom taking me with her to vote at the firehouse and they ALWAYS served  a nasty canned green bean and fried oyster dinner on election day.  I can still remember how it smelled...

The next morning started with breakfast at our hotel.  We could add it onto our room for something like $9/per person which was a great deal.  They had TONS of stuff!

Oatmeal bar

Mmmm...illegal dairy

I ended up with bacon, fruit, smoked salmon and an omelet plus decaf

Then we struck out into the city to amuse ourselves for awhile.  We dorked out at the Bean for a bit.  This thing is probably one of the most photogenic man-made tourist attractions in the world.

After bean-ing, we wandered back out of the park, passing some of the other artworks along the way.

The we headed a couple blocks into the loop to a juice bar I had scoped called Kramer's

This is where I was reminded of one SUPER ANNOYING THING about Chicago.  Everything is closed on the weekends!  Even chain restaurants like Subway, and especially little places like this.  Chicago is definitely not the city that never sleeps.

Kramer's was open, but their cafe was not, and neither were many of the other loop-area juice bars I had checked out (silly me for assuming they'd be open on a Saturday) so we perused their wide selection of bars and were on our way.

It was starting to drizzle, so we ducked into the Sears Willis tower because neither of us had ever been to the top before.

We'll I'll be darned, it IS taller than the John Hancock building

Once we descended back to earth we pressed on through the rain to get to Karyns on Green over in Greektown.  Which, of course, didn't open until 25 minutes after we arrived there.  GAAAAAAH!

So we backtracked through the rain and sought shelter in a Starbucks until the restaurant opened.

Rain, rain, go away
 When we arrived the second time at Karyns and at down to peruse the menu, we were a bit disappointed, and our disappointment only got worse throughout the meal :-(  Don't get me wrong, it was GOOD food, just not really anything that worked all that well into either of our preferred eating approaches.  I had really enjoyed eating at Karyn's Raw when I had been in Chicago before and I just figured this other restaurant in the chain would be similar, but no.

I started out with a thyme-apple drink of some sort, but I had to tell them to leave out the simple syrup.  It was plenty sweet without it!

Now the problem with the menu was that despite being represented as a "healthy" restaurant, the menu was rife with white bread and sugar.  And despite being assured repeatedly that his french toast was 100% whole wheat, we were eventually able to get the waiter to admit that the batter was whole wheat (?) but the actual bread was white.  I kinda think he was lying to cover his butt after having told us it was whole wheat.  Luckily Will had also ordered a quinoa breakfast porridge, so he had something to eat.

I had a portobello sandwich (didn't eat the bread) with a kale salad.  

When that didn't fill me up, I ordered the raw granola, mostly because it said it came with homemade almond milk.

Now here's where Will and I got into a disagreement.  The granola said it was a raw almond raisin pumpkin seed granola, gluten free and sugar free.  When it came out, it was SWEET (agave syrup I guess) and chock full of oats (which I also can't have).  Will says that granola is automatically assumed to have oats, I say they should've listed them with the rest of the ingredients!  I've seen oat-free granola at the health food stores around me, so I know it exists.  Oh well.  The almond milk was good.

That's enough pictures for now, I'll finish up in my third post!

Read part 3 here