Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Best Day of the Year: Bike the Drive




Happy Folks Biking the Drive!

See our building in the background?

Now many of you may be under the impression that Christmas or Thanksgiving or your birthday is the best day of the year. Well, if you are a Chicagoan, I must inform you that, in my humble opinion, you are wrong. Bike the Drive is by far the best day of the year in Chicago. Bike the Drive is this miraculous Sunday morning at the end of May where the entire Lake Shore Drive (LSD) is shut down to car traffic and only bikes are allowed on the drive from 5-10am. What is so special about this? Why, EVERYTHING!
  • You can hear the birds chirping in the morning.
  • The air is fresh, without any car exhaust.
  • Chicago prioritizes exercise so much that it irritates a large number of its more lazy, car-using brethren by shutting down a main thoroughfare of the city!
  • Views of the Chicago Skyline are unhindered by the usual LSD traffic.
  • It is early enough in the year that there are no downtown festivals with tourists crowding our neighborhood.
Some of you might ask why I don't just move to a more natural, less urban setting if birds, fresh air, exercise and great views are what I'm looking for. (Some of you might also ask why the first paragraph of this post is underlined- I myself don't know, I really tried to get rid of the underlining to no avail.) My answer is that a lot of the reason Chicago is so great with great jobs, restaurants, movies, music is because of all the people! If Chicago had less traffic on LSD, that would mean fewer people with a vested interest in this city I now call home. So I know we need the traffic on LSD every other day of the year, and that only increases my love for Bike the Drive day!

Adam and I spent the day this year walking to Fox and Obel (a Chicago staple high-end grocery store, think Whole Foods for the even-more-foodie foodies) to get a lox platter (to-go) then enjoyed it along the lake with birds, trees, grass and NO TRAFFIC. It was great! Then we just walked along the lake and enjoyed our city!

Adam and the Skyline. Notice the lack of cars on LSD behind him! Beautiful!

The Art Institute with the lions decked out in Blackhawksgear (see the helmet?).
Gotta love Chicago sports! Go Hawks! All in all, a good Chicago day!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Ode to (Addiction to) Peanut Butter

So, this post is dedicated to peanut butter. I've been eating a LOT of peanut butter lately. And by lately, I mean for the past year. I'm not entirely sure how I made it over 3 decades without a peanut butter obsession because, gosh, it's so darn good! I think my mistake was thinking of peanut butter as a partner to jelly when in reality peanut butter is so much better without jelly- good with toast, apples, chocolate ice cream or just on a spoon solo, peanut butter is GREAT.

Over the past few weeks, I've started to worry that my peanut butter consumption might be unhealthy. So you can imagine my happy surprise when I found an article in the Archives of Internal Medicine journal titled "Nut Consumption and Blood Lipid Levels". The article summarized 25 different trials with the subjects eating different amounts and different kinds of nuts. The conclusion was that the people who ate more nuts (of virtually any kind including peanuts!) had lower cholesterol (specifically LDL, the "bad" cholesterol). This was particularly true for people with lower BMI (body mass index, low=thin, high=fat). Perfect! I'll just tell myself that peanut butter has enough peanuts in it to help me keep my cholesterol low. Right now both my LDL and HDL are in the 60s so that's pretty good, but hey lower is better for the LDL! (Let's just hope I don't eat so much peanut butter to make me no longer in the lower BMI category! I better keep running marathons!)

Acceptance From Mom

Today I got an email from Facebook saying that Mom has accepted my request to be a member of her family. Interesting. I guess Facebook pretty much has taken over the world when I need its blessing to become part of my own mother's family. ;)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Waterfall Glen

Today I went for a run at Waterfall Glen in Darien, Illinois. It's one of my favorite paths in Chicagoland. The path is a 9.6 mile loop of crushed gravel though forest, past streams and marshlands. Also goes along train tracks which are still in use and a model plane field where a bunch of retired guys are usually flying their planes +/- a grandson or two. Hilly, which is not always easy to find around here. Lots of birds and squirrels and I usually see deer and foxes if I get there early enough. Lots of shade to help keep cool but today even the shade didn't keep me cool enough, so I'll admit, I did a bit of a walk/run thing. But it was good to get outside for a bit in the fresh air and the drive with the top down in Elly is always a nice start and finish to the run!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Summer Opener

Last night was the first concert for the summer at Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. It was a perfect night for it, 76 degrees with a nice lake breeze. For those who aren't familiar, Millennium Park has free concerts almost every night from the end of May until mid-September. The music is mostly classical and some international, but this year there is a new program called "New Music Mondays" which are local rock bands sponsored by Goose Island. Adam grabbed some sandwiches from Pastoral which is an artisan cheese, bread and wine store downtown. I had a delicious duck and brie sandwich. I also cooked some purple asparagus w/ Parmesan cheese, olive oil, and orange zest--> my first time cooking asparagus and I think it turned out pretty well! To drink, we had a large selection (6 bottles!) of Cooper Hawk wines because Goose had a business meeting with them earlier in the day. (Cooper Hawk is a relatively new Illinois winery. They get their grapes from California but blend them here. They have 4 restaurants in the Chicago area. We've been to the one in Orland Park many times and it is delicious! By far the best restaurant in the South Suburbs.) Despite enlisting the help of 3 of Adam's co-workers who joined us on the lawn we didn't even get close to finishing them off (probably a good thing!) so we have leftovers for the week;) As if listening to a FREE concert outside with delicious sandwiches, good company and FREE wine, we have the added bonus of having an only 2 block walk home. All in all, a good night!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Bipolar Shopping Trip

Yesterday, Adam and I went to the Green City Market in Lincoln Park. The market is a delicious collection of fresh produce, breads, cheeses and grass fed beef and elk from the Mid-West. It's a nice easy 15 minute bike ride up the lakefront path from downtown. We had a burger w/ really fresh beef that Adam claims is the best burger in Chicago. I take my food rankings very seriously (if you ask what the best pizza is in Chicago, be prepared for a full discussion of the types of pizza and the rankings by type) so I can't commit to saying it was the best burger in Chicago but it was fabulous. This was my first time to the market and some of my favorites were:

Prairie Fruits Farm: The first farmstead cheesery is right outside the town of my alma mater (Champaign-Urbana) and I've had some of their goat cheese deliciousness before from Whole Foods, but it's always more fun to buy straight from the producer. Prairie Fruits Farm holds outdoor dinners w/ all fresh ingredients from their farm at their farm- definitely on my "to-do" list for the summer.

Seedling Fruits: Based out of South Haven, Michigan. These folks make great smoothies! I had a rhubarb smoothie (pictured here) and it was great! Sweet, sour, fresh tasting, and as you can see by the fiber strands in the picture I think I got 100% of my daily value of fiber as well!

After the market, Adam and I went to Fleet Feet running store to buy some goo chomps. Only in Chicago can you go from buying the freshest, just off the vine/out of the ground produce to super highly engineered, completely processed carbohydrate/electrolyte jelly snacks just 3 blocks away! For those who aren't familiar, goo chomps (and their cousins shot blocks pictured here) are easily digestible snacks intended to have while working out. I use them during 1/2 and full marathons. Three of them are about 100 calories which is usually enough to power me through 1 hour or so of exercise. They taste similar to fruit snacks but denser.

Finally, to round out our day we stopped at Whole Foods for the rest of our weekly groceries. From fresh local farmers market to not-fresh not-local goo chomps to the fresh international market that is Whole Foods--all in all a good shopping day. We'll be eating well this week!