Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Last Supper (I Don't Know Who David Burke is...But I Like His Primehouse!)

The night before I started my MICU (medical intensive care unit) month, Adam took me out for one last supper. We knew we wouldn't see each other much for the next 28 days, and that I would be exhausted the little time I was home, so we wanted to spend some quality time together. Adam chose David Burke's Primehouse, as part of our continued quest determine which is truly the best Chicago steakhouse. I'm really glad we did, because I can remember how great this meal was when I'm stuck in the ICU eating ABP (Au bon pain) for breakfast, lunch and dinner on call!

The meal experience was great from the start. Adam had scoped out the menu ahead of time, and he already knew they had a nice New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, so choosing my first glass of wine was an easy decision:) The first time the waiter stopped by Adam ordered "cake in a can". I came to find out that "cake in a can" is a David Burke's Primehouse special- made to order red velvet cake. More about this delicious treat at the end of the post.

The pre-dinner bread and butter was really good. The bread was warm and fluffy and the butter was just perfectly warm.

We had the Waguu beef sashimi appetizer pictured to the left. It was fantastic!

Ordering at steakhouses is always easy for me because I get the same entree- the filet mignon, petite if they have it. I've finally gotten into the habit of ordering the meat "rare" which is definitely the way to go. I certainly couldn't have white wine with steak, so I moved on to a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. (Twist my arm, if I have to have a second glass, I will;) )

Adam had the Dry Aged Greshburger that consisted of a 49 day dry aged burger with shaved prime rib on top. It was served w/ beer battered onion rings and Moroccan ketchup. We had the swiss chard and summer squash as sides- they were fresh and delicious. I've always said that you can judge a restaurant by how well they cook plain veggies.

This "cake in a can" dessert was quite the production. They make the cake fresh so it takes 45 minutes (thus the immediate ordering at the beginning of the meal). First, they bring out the mixers w/ cake batter for us to lick off. That's my favorite part of making cake in the first place- eating the batter over Adam's admonishments of "but the Salmonella!". So I got to enjoy that part without the hassle of baking. A few minutes later, they brought the cake out, in its can, and applied the cream cheese frosting tableside. A couple near us was having their ceasar salad tossed tableside- didn't compare to our delicious treat- I think they were jealous. Rightfully so, the cake was warm, the frosting was perfect, a scrumtious end to the night. And I had it for breakfast the next day. (Hey, I'm in the MICU, I can eat whatever I want, right?)

Tonight, on my overnight call in the MICU, I actually get to have a wonderful dinner prepared by my generous husband who took the time to make this delicious tomatillo-lime pork shoulder soup w/ cilantro rice. Just as good as anything at David Burke's because it was made with love;) (And he's a damn good cook!)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Planet Earth in the Park!

Last Wednesday, Planet Earth Live played in the Pritzker Pavilion. Planet Earth is a 2006 BBC documentary, the most in-depth, expensive nature documentary ever made. It took 5 years to shoot with over 1000 days worth of time in the field. They were able to document animals and locations never before seen on film. For example, after 7 months (literally 7 months!) of trying to find a snow leopard in the mountains of Pakistan they got the first ever footage of a mother and her cub. They even got the mother hunting, chasing down a deer-like animal. 7 months! One film guy was out there for 3 months, didn't get anything, a second went for 4 months and got some footage on the last day!

The point is, this documentary has some amazing, breathtaking, never-before-seen footage of the natural world that no one should miss. It is narrated by David Attenborough, who also narrated 'Life of Mammals' and other great nature films. I would highly recommend buying the series (Adam and I have watched our copy at least 7 times), but you can also rent it on Netflix. One in 30 American households owns the DVD series, so if you don't have it, you are behind the curve, my friend.

So, given that this is my favorite documentary series of all time, you can imagine how thrilled I was to find out they were playing a show at the Pritzker Pavilion! The show is called Planet Earth life and Chicago was its 3rd of only 6 stops on its Summer Tour. The show is in LA this weekend and Philadelphia later in the month so those who live in those towns should drop what they are doing and find a way to attend the shows! It is really a not-to-be-missed experience.

The show consists of a huge movie screen that shows select footage from the documentary series, and the score of the show is played live by the professional orchestra from that particular town. So, for us, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra played the score which was composed and conducted by Emmy Award winning composer, George Fenton . Before each of the show's 13 segments, Mr. Fenton described some of the behind-the-scenes stories as well as his thoughts on composing for each section. A couple of my favorite segments were:

"First Steps" : This segment showed two baby polar bears emerging from hibernation to take their first steps as well as a few Mallard ducks taking their first nose dives from their nests to the ground. Super cute and the music matched very well.

"Snow Leopard": As mentioned above, the snow leopard is super rare, super endangered, and super hard to catch on film and I am excited every time I see the footage.

"Journey to the Okavango": This segment follows the migration of an elephant herd from the desert to the Okavango delta, an amazing seasonal swampland in Botswana with a huge diversity of animals during the wet season including elephants, zebras, water buffalo, hippos, etc. The delta is so large that you can see it from space. The area is on my "Top 10 places I need to see" list.

The live music really added to the viewing experience. Watching the footage with live music from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, outdoors on a beautiful summer night, w/ some good wine, listening to the live cicadas during the intermission--> it made for my favorite night of the summer thus far!

Here are some pics from the documentary. They don't come close to doing the show justice, but are still fun to look at!


"Ice Worlds"

"Ice Worlds"



"Deep Oceans"


"Shallow Seas"



"Great Plains"

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Purple Pig: Bone Marrow Anyone?

Last week, my friend Sara and I took an impromptu visit to a relatively new restaurant on Michigan Avenue called The Purple Pig. As the restaurant name suggests, we ate cheese (a nice Camembert), swine (in the form of a pork blade steak that we were delighted to find tasted like bacon) and wine (a key upside of this place is they have many good wine bottle options for under $40).

Overall, the place was good. Very convenient location for us (just steps from work), the inside is cute and they have an outdoor patio. Service was good, wine options great, food about what you would expect for this sort of place with lots of fatty foods, fried foods, and just generally unhealthy though upscale and tasty fare.

Besides spending quality time with my dear friend, Sara, which is always filled with laughing at the state of the world and the state of our lives in particular, we also had the opportunity to try something very unique: pig bone marrow. It was delivered to us as pictured below and we basically ate the marrow out of the bone with a tiny fork. (As Sara wittingly put it, this was my first bone marrow biopsy!) It was served w/ crostinis, capers, onions and cilantro. The best way I can describe the marrow is soft and rich. Sort of like butter or aioli, but completely flavorless. Hence all the sides served with it. People tell me it's supposed to be a spread- a butter substitute- but the way I see it, if I'm going to eat a fork-full of fat, I'd rather it just be butter. Butter>marrow, I guess is what I'm saying. But I'm always up for a new experience. (If you find yourself talking to some hipster who thinks bone marrow is "great", they probably are just trying to be cool, because I'm telling you, it's flavorless.)

So, what are the benefits (if any) of eating bone marrow instead of butter or mayo? Well, I was curious myself and here are some key lessons I learned about the nutritional benefits of bone marrow:

--Three and a half ounces of bone marrow contains 488 calories, 51 grams of fat, and 7 grams of protein.

--Native American hunters back in the day would eat bison bone marrow because it is so rich in fats and calories. Fat and calories for early Native Americans=good. Fat and calories for modern humans=BAD.

--Some researchers think the fats in bone marrow were key in the brain development that helped us evolve into homo sapiens.

--One very "pro-eating bone marrow site" (who knew there would be such a thing?) claimed that bone marrow helps maintain a "healthy" (though I read this as "high") cholesterol level and acts as an anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic agent. I'm dubious.

--One man wrote on his blog that he tends "to rely on marrow as my main source of fat - I also get fat in the form of raw suet, raw tongue or raw brain, and occasionally raw eggs (it's a good idea not to overdo raw egg consumption) - but raw brain is very difficult to get hold of in my country, and, while I don't mind it as such, raw suet just doesn't compare in taste to marrow.". Hmm...I can't add much to that, except to explain what the heck raw suet is: it is beef or mutton fat, "especially the hard fat found around the loins and kidneys" according to Wikipedia.

If you'd like to learn more about eating bone marrow, I'd recommend a blog I came across called Adam's Daily Apple: Primal Living in the Modern World. At the very least, it is entertaining!

Sara enjoying our bottle of wine in the sun!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Final Visit

While "The Final Visit" is probably a bit melodramatic, that was how this weekend visit with the family felt since I will soon be entering the MICU (medical intensive care unit) as senior resident thus probably won't see or talk to any of my family members for a month or so. In anticipation of this, Adam and I spent the weekend in Rockford (or more correctly, Loves Park and Cherry Valley) with my family. It was a whirlwind weekend of seeing all kinds of folks, which was great. On Saturday afternoon, after our long runs (my hot 20 miler), we drove out to Rockford with the top down on Elly.

Saturday evening we had dinner at my Dad's condo. In attendance were my Mom, Grandma Nelson, Uncle Paul, Aunt Trish and the 3 tasty bottles of wine pictured above. The left most bottle was a great Zin my Dad had. He has quite the wine collection and I always look forward to the bottles he has to share when we visit. The middle bottle was a Late Harvest Riesling from the Chateau Grand Traverse winery (the one we stayed at on our recent trip to Michigan). It was a bit too sweet for me but everyone else seemed to like it. On the right is a wonderful German Pinot Noir Paul and Trish brought. Thanks to my Mom and Dad for the delicious dinner and to my Grandma for her amazing blueberry cheesecake for dessert!

True to form, the evening involved good food, good alcohol, and all kinds of jokes. Many of the members of my family are hilarious without even realizing it. Case in point, my Dad trying to kill a fly with a rubber band. Seriously? Does that ever work? Well, it did this time!

We had initially planned on kayaking the Kish (Kishwaukee River) the next morning but there were supposed to be storms and Adam and I were really tired, so we lounged around watching a Nat Geo special on Zion and Bryce National Parks instead.

After the show, I ingested some liquid energy in the form and caffeine and enjoyed a delicious brunch at my Mom's house with my Grandma and Grandpa Monson. My mom made the biggest fruit salad I've ever seen with tons of variety including blueberries, strawberries, mango, and cantaloupe. It was delicious! (I really should say "is" delicious, because it was so big that I'm still enjoying it for lunches here in Chicago!) We also had quiche which was quite tasty.

Since it was my cousin Anna-Lisa's birthday, we sent her a picture message wishing her happy birthday. After multiple technical and organizational failures, we finally produced the above picture on my dad's cell which we sent to her. I think she appreciated the thought even if we are all completely blurry and she couldn't read the "happy birthday" sign I labored over for all of 5 seconds that my mom is holding in the picture!

All in all, it was a good weekend. From the family perspective, I feel better prepared to become MIA for a month in the MICU. However, I still have quite a bit of running, blog posting and general life maintenance to accomplish before Friday at 7 am!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Terzo Piano at the Art Institute of Chicago

A few weeks ago, Adam and I were trying to come up with a good dining experience in our neighborhood. We thought about The Gage, a tasty place with great ambiance on South Michigan Ave. On our walk through Millennium Park to get to The Gage, Adam was bright enough to remember Terzo Piano, the restaurant on the roof of the new modern wing of the Art Institute. It is open every day for lunch but only for dinner on Thursdays. For that reason, we had not yet eaten there.

Overall, the experience was good. Great ambiance- how can you beat a patio looking out over Millennium Park w/ artwork just feet away? The inside looks very cute as well- we'll have to come back some Thursday in the winter for dinner inside. The food was okay. It was good, but nothing extraordinary, not surprising for a place that probably does most of its business on tourists and special events. The service was terribly slow and disorganized, which was fine for us since we were enjoying the view and the company. Even better, they brought us two amuse bouches! (By means of explanation for the non-foodies out there, an amuse-bouche is a french word for 'tasty bite' or 'mouth amuser'. It is a one bite appetizer given as a gift to the restaurant patrons by the chef.)

The chef at Terzo Piano is Tony Mantuano, the chef behind Spiaggia, one of the best Italian restaurants in the city. The food at Terzo Piano is described as "Italian with a modern twist". They have a cava di stagionatura, which is a cheese cave and I do love cheese!

There is a 3 course fixed price menu for $50. Neither Adam nor I were hungry enough for that so we ordered a la carte. For dinner I had the "hand crafted spaghetti with McWethy Farms cherry tomatoes, toasted garlic, herbs and pine nuts". Very tasty, nice and light for a hot day, but not really worth the $17 it cost. Adam had the PEI mussels in Goose Island Honker's ale (of course!). Looking at the menu today, I see the mussels are being served with Metropolitan beer this week. Metropolitan is a newish small Chicago craft brewery.

If I recall, we skipped dessert and grabbed some ice cream in the park on the way home instead. Overall, I recommend the restaurant once for the novelty and the great view but I don't think it will become a regular for us because the food is good, not great, and it is a bit pricey. With so many amazing food options in Chicago, there's no need to settle!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Block 1: Palliative Care

I recently started my 3rd and final year of Internal Medicine Residency (woo-hoo, almost done!!). I realize, however, that most of my non-medical friends and family really don't understand what residency entails. How could they? This whole medical training thing is the most confusing, needlessly long, expensive process ever. So, this year I will do my best to explain the Internal Medicine residency process for those who may be curious.

1st year= Intern year. We are "residents" for all 3 years of residency but the first year we have the special (and not in a good way) designation as "interns". Interns do all the work. We have a saying that if the residents and attending physicians (our bosses) were not in the hospital for a day the patients would do just fine, but take away the interns (and the intensive care nurses) and things would fall apart. Poor interns. It's terrible to be an intern. I will never have to do that again.

2nd year= 3rd year= Senior Resident. The residents are in many way the team leaders. They watch over the interns, sub-interns (4th year medical students) and 3rd year medical students to make sure the patients are taken care of appropriately and to ensure all the daily work gets done. They also run daily rounds and often have to "manage up" to help the attendings stay on task and efficient. I'll go into detail about that role when I'm "on service" which means on a block where we have a set of inpatients we are responsible for.

Right now, on Palliative Care, I'm not "on service". Which is great, because that means I generally get my weekends off and for the most part am home by 5pm. For me, Palliative Care is an elective month, meaning I chose it. All residents have to do at least 2 weeks of Palliative Care. Since end-of-life care is a big interest on mine, I'm doing a total of 6.

So what is Palliative Care? It's a fair question and one that most physicians don't even know how to answer. In the broadest sense, Palliative Care is the art of working to prevent and relieve suffering from (a wide array of) symptoms. There are many diseases that we can't "cure" and other diseases where the only hope of "cure" comes at the expense of difficult treatments that produce a lot of symptoms (chemo comes to mind here). Most diseases in this day and age are chronic diseases. From heart failure to HIV to renal failure to many cancers, we can manage and treat the illness allowing people to live for many years with the disease still present in their bodies. This results in folks living logner lives but also results in a lot of daily symptoms such as pain, nausea and shortness of breath that patients must contend with.

The Palliative Care consult team is called to help address these symptoms. Pain is the most common symptom we help address. From headaches to post-surgical pain to sickle cell crises to existential pain, we're a one-stop shop. There is a lot of confusion and hesitancy around dosing narcotics, so we often help with that. Another common symptom is nausea. Other consults we've had in the past 3 weeks have included: constipation, shortness of breath, intractable hiccups, and painful coughing fits.

A sub-component of Palliative Care is end-of-life care. At the end-of-life folks can have a lot of symptoms, most commonly pain, shortness of breath and agitation, that we can very easily prevent and treat so that everyone can have a comfortable death. I think helping patients have comfortable, pain-free, deaths is the most important thing I can do as a physician.

Our consult team, however, does way more than swoop in and treat symptoms at the end-of-life. We are very involved in goals of care conversations in which we help patients and families think about what they want for themselves or their loved ones when it becomes clear that their disease is not going to be cured or even held at bay much longer. The days where I have heart to heart conversations with patients and their families about their priorities at the end-of-life are the days I feel most like a physician. They are also the days when I feel like I've actually made a difference in the world.

Our society does a terrible job of discussing death and dying. For some reason, we are afraid of talking about the end of life. As a result, most families fail to discuss their personal wishes at the end of life leaving their family wondering "Would they want to be hooked up to a ventilator?", "What kind of quality of life would be 'worth living' for my loved one?", "At what point would my loved one want to 'let go' and disconnect all the tubes, IVs, breathing machines keeping their heart pumping and their lungs filing with air?".

Thus, we end up with ICUs (intensive care units) full of very sick patients with 'multi-system organ failure' (meaning 3 or more of their organs have completely stopped working) who have absolutely no quality of life and, quite frankly, may be suffering. It is our job as the Palliative Care team to step in and help the family process what is happening, and help them to think hard about what their loved one would want. Often times, after serious reflection, families realize it is time to "let their loved one go" and we begin to focus on comfort care --> ensuring the patient is comfortable but no longer focusing on prolonging their life.

The Palliative Care team also helps facilitate hospice. Hospice means many things to many people. At it's core, hospice is a philosophy about the end of life, that focuses on comfort and quality of life over quantity (or duration) or life. Hospice is a philosophy but it is also a program that is designed for any person who has a life expectancy of less than 6 months. Hospice programs provide specially trained doctors, nurses and social workers to help patients die with dignity in the setting that serves them best. For many people, home is where they would like to spend the last days/weeks/months of their lives and home hospice programs make this possible by providing visiting nurses, supplies and training for the family to take care of dying loved ones at home. On the Palliative Care consult team, we help facilitate the transition to home hospice for appropriate patients.

I hesitated in writing this post out of concern that it may all sound very depressing. But I want to assure you that, while sad and poignant, helping patients decide how and where to live out their final time on this Earth is the most rewarding and humbling experience I have the privilege of being involved in as a physician. We all die. Some of us expectedly, some of us unexpectedly, some at a nice ripe old age and some way too soon. We should all live our lives with no regrets in case we are members of the unexpected and too soon category. And we should device a society that knows how to provide a good death for all people and their families so that death can truly be a celebration of a person's life rather than a scary secret occurrence that makes us all uncomfortable. Our medical science is so advanced that we can keep people alive (though with no quality of life) nearly forever. My hope is that we are able to step back and look at the big picture of every individual's life and know when it is time to let go. That's my most important job on the Palliative Care service, and as a doctor.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Scenes from Lakefront Path, North

When I post my runs on dailymile.com I list the route I ran. These routes may not mean much to non-locals or Chicago based folks who don't use the path (though it seems like a waste to live in Chicago and not use the path, so get out there people!). So today, I took a leisurely bike ride on my Lakefront Path, North route taking pictures along the way. So here are some scenes from a typical run on Lakefront Path, North:

Just before Oak Street Beach (1 mile mark).

Oak Street Beach. Most of the folks in the water are swimmers training for the Chicago Triathlon.

Belmont Harbor. (Mile 4)

Waveland Golf Course along the Lake. (Mile 5.5).

Still Mile 5.5.

Still Mile 5.5. I don't see this everyday! Groups of Marines training along the path, carrying "casualties", water, supplies.

I'm now on the return trip, heading back South. Here I am just at the beginning of the North Ave Beach. (Mile 12.5).

At the South end of North Ave Beach looking South to downtown. (Mile 13)

Looking back onto North Ave Beach. (Mile 13.5)

Chicago Summer Dance

One of the best parts of living right near Grant Park and Millennium Park is the wide array of free activities. Between the Grant Park Music Festival and all the other free concerts in Pritzker Pavilion, the traveling art exhibits, the museums, the festivals and Summer Dance it is nearly impossible to find an evening without a free Chicago activity.

While Adam and I have done a great job this season of attending concerts in Pritzker Pavilion (I think we've averaged one a week), we need to do a better job of attending Summer Dance. Summer Dance is a free evening event that consists of 2 parts: the first hour is a dance lesson with professional instructors. The lessons range from Argentine Tango to Bhangra to Steppin' but also include classics like Salsa, Fox Trot and Waltz. Over 20 different dance types are taught over the course of the summer. After the lesson, there is live music and dancing under the stars.

The events happen at various places in the city including two locations right outside our front door: Navy Pier and Grant Park's Spirit of Music Garden. These pictures are from the latter. Goose Island had a private event just next to Summer Dance a few weeks ago that Adam and I attended. We arrived too late to do the dance lesson but got to enjoy watching others dance. It motivated me to get there in time for the lesson soon!

More details for Chicagoans:

Summer Dance is on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays all summer long. The next few lessons/dances in the Grant Park Spirit of Music Garden are:

July 10 (today!) :
Buddy Bates and Rebecca Unger (Zydeco lesson) w/ Jeffry Broussard and The Creole Cowboys providing Zydeco music

July 11:
BallroomChicago.com (Mambo lesson) w/ the John Burnett Orchestra playing Vintage Big Band and Ballroom music

July 15:
Soham Dance Space (Bhangra lesson) with Red Baraat playing Punjabi Funk music

July 16:
Big City Swing (East Coast Swing lesson) with The Flat Cats playing Jump Blues and Swing music

Get out there and boogie! (And from what I saw the other day, don't worry about looking silly- there is always someone who looks sillier than you!)

Dinner at Pane Caldo

The Thursday before 4th of July weekend, Adam and I were looking for a good restaurant for Friday night dinner- a place that would jump start our action packed 3 day weekend. To find this shining star of a restaurant we turned to UrbanSpoon. For those of you without iphones, UrbanSpoon is an iphone app (application) that helps you to locate restaurants in your city. There are 3 columns: location (ie neighborhood in Chicago), type of food, and price. We set the food column to Italian, and left the other 2 alone. Lo and behold after repeatedly suggesting Giordano's and Al's Italian Beef, the iphone mentioned Pane Caldo. Pane Caldo? Neither of us had ever heard of it! I quickly googled it and it turns out this gem of an Italian restaurant is just a 20 minute walk from our apartment! In general, Adam and I at least know the names of most good restaurants in Chicago, so we were intrigued and headed out to Pane Caldo Friday night.

Overall, this restaurant was a real find. It is located just a couple blocks from the Michigan Ave and Chicago Ave intersection in the Gold Coast. They specialize in Northern Italian food made with all fresh ingredients. They make their own pasta and the menu changes daily based on which ingredients the chef thinks look good at the farmer's market. The ambience is really great- sophisticated, modern, warm. The service was wonderful- the server walked us through the menu with some editorializing about what is particularly good this time of year.

To drink, I tried a glass of Rhone Blanc. This was the first time I'd tried that varietal, but it certainly won't be the last. Picture the oakey depth of a good oaked Chardonney combined with the dry, slightly fruity refreshingness provided by a good Savignon Blanc and you have Rhone Blanc (or at least the one I had).
On to the eats. Pane Caldo means "warm bread" in Italian, and sure enough the warm bread, served with an olive tampenade, was delicious. We had seasoned mushrooms with asparagus as an appetizer, which was great. For dinner, Adam had squid ink risotto with Maine lobster and truffle oil. I had homemade tortellini stuffed with acorn squash with an asparagus sauce. Both of our meals were impressive. Really impressive. Haven't been this impressed since some of our dinners in New Zealand.

Dessert was excellent as well. Adam had the cheese plate with a glass of port and I had the panna cotta. I explained in my Harvest post my new love of panna cotta. This one was even better than the one at Harvest. It tasted like a soft creme brulee. The presentation was beautiful with kiwi and blackberry drizzled artistically around the plate and a 4 inch high hardened sugar treble clef adorning the plate as well!

I definitely recommend this place to anyone looking for an impressively fresh, beautifully presented Northern Italian meal in a modernly sophisticated, intimate setting. I give it an A+!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

4th of July with Flat Stanley....Cup

Unless you are a teacher, parent, or grandparent, you may not be familiar with Flat Stanley. Flat Stanley is a children's book from the 1960s by author Jeff Brown. The premise is as follows:

"Stanley Lambchop and his younger brother Arthur are given a big bulletin board by their Dad for putting pictures and posters on. He hangs it on the wall over Stanley's bed, but during the night the board falls from the wall, flattening Stanley in his sleep. He survives and makes the best of his altered state, and soon he is entering locked rooms by sliding under the door, and playing with his younger brother by being used as a kite. Stanley even helps catch some art museum thieves by posing as a painting on the wall. But one special advantage is that Flat Stanley can now visit his friends by being mailed in an envelope. Eventually Arthur, who tires of all the attention Stanley has been getting, reverts Stanley to his proper shape through an air pump used for footballs." (source: Wikipedia)

The book has had a recent revival since the 1990s as schoolteachers use is as a way for kids to letter-write and interact with pen-pals and family members. This first started in 1995 by a British 3rd grade teacher. He had his students bring a paper cut-out of Flat Stanley with them and then write in a journal about where they went and what they did with Flat Stanley. Students also are asked to give a Flat Stanley to their family on their travels and take pictures (example, Flat Stanley in a Nigerian market on the right).

My parents got involved in the Flat Stanley craze at the request of my niece, Gwyn. They dutifully carried Flat Stanley around with them for a weekend, to the store, to dinner, to the golf course..

Flat Stanley has become so popular that when the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, the Chicago Tribune created a Flat Stanley...Cup. (For those who aren't sports inclined, the Stanley Cup is the trophy for the championship hockey team.) The Blackhawks spent many days carrying the real Stanley Cup all over town after they won, similar in some ways to kids and adults carrying around Flat Stanley. When Adam told me about this I found it sufficiently funny that I thought we should bring Flat Stanley...Cup on our Fourth of July adventures.

Here's Adam with Flat Stanley..Cup. I think he's wondering what he's gotten himself into;)

To start our 3-day weekend off properly, Adam and I walked to a Streeterville restaurant called Pane Caldo for dinner. Here I am sitting outside Northwestern Hospital with Flat Stanley...Cup on our walk to the restaurant.

Pane Caldo was delicious! A great pick that we found on UrbanSpoon (an iphone app). High end Northern Italian. (I'll post a restaurant review eventually.) Here I am outside the restaurant with Flat Stanley...Cup.

Adam and I had a whirlwind 4th of July. So many people to see! The day started with me going for a 17 mile run (see post here) while Adam made his signature Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting for the 4th of July gatherings later in the day. (Let me tell you, eating the left over frosting out of the bowl when I got back from my run made the whole 3 hours worth it!)

Then, we went to Adam's folks house and grilled out bison burgers. We visited with his mom, his sister, her boyfriend and their two kids Maya and Evan. To the right, Adam and Maya are playing with "pop-its", those little firecrackers you throw on the ground and they POP. Maya loved them. Flat Stanley...Cup joined in the fun.

Maya and Adam.

Evan and Adam.

Evan and Adam. I think this is a great picture.

Next, we headed over the annual Boyle 4th of July party. I am very grateful for Chris and Don Boyle who throw this party every year. I think the 4th of July could become a boring holiday for us adults (I mean, you really only need to see a certain number of fireworks in your life!) but Adam and I look forward to the Boyle party for weeks, making the 4th of July one of our favorite holidays. Thanks Chris and Don!

And thanks to Jay who always does the grilling! This year he did it with Flat Stanley...Cup.

We had a busy Monday as well. First we went to see "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" at a movie theater in Lincoln Park. I really enjoyed it (I loved the book!) and Adam liked it okay. He was a trooper for coming along. Review of the book and movie will require an additional post.

We finished the night off with a great evening at Pritzker Pavilion with friends. It was New Music Mondays and the bands were The Disappears who opened for The Thermals. The Disappears were okay, but The Thermals were awesome! Best of all was spending quality time with my co-residents outside of the hospital. In attendance were Adam and I, Laura and her boyfriend Steve, Sara, Laura's friend Julie, and Flat Stanley...Cup. Good food (Pastoral Harvest salad, yum!), good wine (Brys Estates Pinot Blanc from Michigan) and a great dessert spread (blueberries, root beer floats and chocolate covered brownie bites)- who can argue with that? Hopefully we can all go to another concert together soon.

Me and the girls.

All in all it was a fantastic weekend with Adam, friends and family. Can't beat 3 day holiday weekends!