Let’s see a movie, Old Sport!

If there is one thing in life that I have a love/hate relationship with, it is film adaptations of great literature. I love it and I hate it. On one hand, I love the visualization of a great novel on the big screen.

But then there is the struggle to capture a literary voice in a new medium. Sometimes it goes well, but other times it goes horribly, horribly wrong. I rarely allow myself to be excited about a film adaptation.

But The Great Gatsby film adaptation released in 2013 is one that I looked forward to seeing. So when Danny Boy and I realized we could use our college id’s (makes me sound younger than I am…) to see a film at Hollywood Blvd. for $3 last night, we jumped up and headed out the door.

First of all, let me explain Hollywood Blvd to those outside the Chicagoland area. They serve dinner while you watch the film and include some clever-named menu items. It’s basically a haven for film enthusiasts since they also host special events and decorate every inch of wall space with movie images or memorabilia.

A place like this often gets two responses. You are either annoyed that a waiter is disrupting your movie watching with drink orders and food or you love it and embrace it wholeheartedly.

I personally love this place and yelp about it plenty. But I am getting distracted from the main point here, the movie. Warning, there will be spoilers coming up!

The goods:

1) The Soundtrack. This is as good as it gets in my opinion. The music is great blend of contemporary music and the sounds of the 20′s. You may also feel the urge to jump up and dance though most theaters frown upon this behavior unless you are at a midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show.

2) Visualizations. The overall film is visually vibrant and fun to watch. They paid attention to the details of the book and really made them come alive. The Valley of Ashes with the old billboard eyes looking through the glasses was done perfectly. The party scenes were loud and bright as expected. However, the visuals did not take away from the character development which was pretty spot on. I feel like some movies try to focus on the visuals and forget to develop the characters.

The best moment is when Myrtle Wilson is hit by a car. F. Scott Fitzgerald was very descriptive in how her breast was ripped open and bleeding. The film made sure to include that along with visuals of the billboard that so amazingly symbolizes many of the themes.

3) Carey Mulligan. I knew walking into this that I was going to like Carey Mulligan in her portrayal of Daisy Buchanan. If you didn’t already know, I’m a bit of a Doctor Who fan, and Mulligan stars in one of the best episodes “Blink.” If you haven’t seen that episode or watched Doctor Who, then I am required by fandom law to advise that the episode does not tie into a huge plot and is worth watching as a stand alone episode.

In fact, go watch the episode now. It’s in Season 3 of Doctor Who and all on Netflix watch instantly. I’ll wait here a few moments so you can report back how much you love that episode. Seriously, go watch it!

Not so goods:

1) Excessive use of ‘Old Sport”. Every English major in the world would have been writing angrily on blogs had they not used “Old Sport” in Gatsby’s dialogue. Leonardo DiCaprio did a great job in his portrayal, but it felt like “Old Sport” was said a hell of a lot more than the book. I could be not recalling the book entirely well since it’s been 2-3 years since my last read, but the movie definitely said it a few too many times. Not the end all, be all, but just an added note to my review.

2) Some narration issues. Did anyone else notice that Spiderman was narrating this film? I kid, I kid. Tobey Maguire was great as Nick Carraway, but I did find some issues with the framework of his narration. While the novel is written from Nick’s perspective, and I really appreciate the films hard work to recreate that narration, it felt strange that it all started with him talking to a psychiatrist in the beginning.

As a reader, I do not recall the book mentioning Nick as unstable mentally in any way. It makes slight changes to his credibility though scholars would argue that the book already does that in other, more subtle ways.

3) There’s nothing else to complain about. I look forward to seeing a film adaptation of a novel so that I can ridicule the lack of dedication to stay “true” to the book. I barely have any complaints in this respect. I guess it’s not a bad thing, but give this blogger something to moan about! The characters were spot on between Tom’s subtle racist and sexist attitude to Jordan Baker’s cool and calm nature. Daisy maintained her very dependent personality and confusing comments that don’t really make any sense. She lacked any real backbone or ability to exist outside of a relationship to another person, just like Fitzgerald wrote it.

How to Guide for Spontaneous Vacations

Did you ever want to be spontaneous and take a quick mini vacation? Here’s a easy to understand how to guide for just that!

On Sunday June 12th, Danny Boy and I watched Travel Channel’s Top 10 Roller Coasters. Exactly six days later, we packed up my new car aka “Sparky” and made the drive to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio.

Since this was a first in my life, I decided it was a great blogging opportunity. Spontaneous mini-vacations can be great fun and here’s how to have one of your own.

Inspiration

The first thing you need is inspiration and motivation. Find something you can be excited about. Seek out something not to far away that can really be a good time.

Dan and I realized we had never gone to an amusement park together. Living in Chicago, we’re about an hour and a half from the Six Flags Great America in Gurnee. The problem is we’ve both been a million times throughout our lives.

Since this was a first roller coaster filled day in our relationship, we needed something different. Sandusky, Ohio is about 4.5 hours away from Chicago. To cut costs, we decided to make the drive early in the morning so that we go directly to the park and crash for a night at a hotel before driving back.

Research

You may feel tempted to over research this type of thing. Trust me, I found other places in driving distance and was tempted to push back our mini-trip to Memorial Day weekend since I have an extra day off.

It starts to feel less spontaneous so tread carefully. Make sure you have enough time to make the drive and enjoy your destination without spending lots of money. Two days of driving somewhere means a total of four days in a car to make it back. Unless you have things to visit along the way or a lot of vacation time, keep the actual driving to a minimum.

For something outdoors, check the weather. I checked every day in the six days between the idea and the actual mini-road trip.

But here’s a thing to remember, weather forecasts are not perfect. All week, I was told it would rain that Saturday in Sandusky, Ohio. Did we cancel? No. Did it rain? Not a drop of rain all day!

Planning

So you found your motivation, your place of interest, and you know it’s doable. Avoid over-planning everything. Here are a few things to ask yourself:

What do I need to bring?

What time do we have to leave?

Can I buy tickets online for my destination? Can I find a coupon code or a discount?

I was able to find a discount and get our Cedar Point tickets for only $37 each. We planned to leave at 4:30am. Yes, we actually left at 5:15am, but it didn’t ruin our good time.

Anything else of importance? How about making a fun playlist for the drive–one that could be put on shuffle while you laughed your way across state lines.

My road trip playlist included a lot of crazy choices: Freebird, Send Me On My Way, Dream On, Bohemian Rhapsody, Bitter Sweet Symphony, Walking On Sunshine, 99 Luftballons (yes, the German version), the theme song to Fresh Prince of Bel Air, ABC by the Jackson 5, Blue Monday, Baby Got Back, Chelsea Dagger, Low Rider, and many more.

Packing

Oh, the subject of packing. I am a guilty party to over-packing. I did it when we went to Cancun, and I’m sure it’s not the last time.

For Cedar Point, I had a game plan. The weather could have been really nice or a little chilly and rainy. So one outfit was for chilly/rainy weather and one was for hot/sweaty weather. I brought a change of PJ’s and that’s it. Remember it’s not worth stressing about. And make up? Leave it at home!

Execution

So you planned, packed, and are ready to go. A few small tips. Make sure your partner in crime has the same ideals about this mini-trip as you do. If you don’t have the same motivation, you will bicker a lot.

Dan and I had only one goal. To ride as many roller coasters that the roller coaster gods would allow us. We shared the drive there and stopped when we felt like it. No fighting, no bickering, and no stressing!

PUBLIC SAFETY ANNOUNCEMENT

You want to road trip? Put away your cellphone. If you are sitting in the passenger seat, put away your cell phone and give your driver some conversation (unless you are searching for something related to your mini-vacation).

From Chicago to Ohio, we saw two car accidents (one was really bad). Just keep in mind, you are going incredibly fast, and even if you are bored, stay safe and focus your mind on the road.

Stay Dedicated

Next is to just have fun and enjoy your day. If you are at an amusement park, don’t get bored waiting in lines. Be excited and don’t let your old age make you feel too tired to really get as much fun as possible out of your day.

Don’t sweat the little things either. The new roller coaster that opened at Cedar Point was called the GateKeeper. We went straight there and turned away from the line when we heard there was a four hour wait.

So we got in line for another coaster and right when we got close, it shut down for maintenance. After 10 minutes, it reopened and it was smooth sailing the rest of the day.

I also managed to drop my phone and crack the screen while waiting in a line. But you don’t let those things ruin the rest of your fun. Emotions are all about perspective, so focus on the positives and walk away with good feelings.

We went back to the GateKeeper later and sat in the first row. It was the highlight of the day!

Recap

Here are a few photos from our mini-vacation. They are all from my cellphone since we didn’t even pack a real camera.

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Chickpea Buffalo Wings

Now let’s start with a little background information about me. I am not a great cook, and I really don’t have fond memories of my mother teaching me to cook mashed potatoes or bake a pie. We baked cakes and cookies but from the box. I grew up in a fast household, and if you were hungry, you ate something frozen to microwave to mouth.

The generations before mine were presented with easy, fast, and quick solutions for putting dinner on the table (or any other time of day meal). But they did not know the damage those processed and frozen foods would cause to our culture. It is apparent now that diabetes, obesity, and heart disease are so prevalent in our society that we took a wrong turn.

This all I learned and gathered from many different books, and if you are interested in reading it all for yourself, check out Michael Pollans’ book A Defense of Food. I blogged about it already!

So where am I going with all this? Well, take these facts and give them to a person that doesn’t know how to cook and hasn’t even tried the majority of vegetables in the grocery store and you will see one confused and frustrated young lady. That was me years and years ago. I’ve had my ups and downs with learning to cook but am finally starting to really feel like a cook.

If you asked me today to explain how to make something, I probably could off the top of my head! Meal planning is now second nature, and I never go into a week not knowing what I’m having for dinner every day. Every grocery trip is accompanied with a list of ingredients and barely any of them are processed foods.

It has taken a lot to get here. I’ve burned garlic bread, thrown away full meals in anger, and even ordered a pizza because I didn’t meal plan properly. But I’m in a real good place, and I just must share some new finds and original ideas.

I struggled to find a good cookbook and finally the library came through with a good one–Herbivoracious by Michael Natkin. Some recipes were too time consuming but a few were awesome little finds. The first was the Chickpea Fritters. They are fried in vegetable oil and included flour and breadcrumbs. Maybe not the most healthy thing in the world but a great little vegetarian dish that I really enjoyed and will use again and again.

Then a few days after making this dish, I had a wave of genius pass through me. I dropped everything I was doing and looked at Dan. When he heard, I think a small tear or two fell from his eyes. Since going vegetarian, we have allowed occasional meals with meat but they are far and few between (which we like).

One meal we craved and missed was Hooter’s buffalo wings. I realized that we could make the chickpea fritters and shape them like boneless buffalo wings. We even went to Hooter’s and bought our favorite sauces and added some blue cheese to really make it feel like buffalo wings.

The result was great, and it was my moment that really made me feel like a cook!

meatless buffalo wings with cornbread and mashed cauliflower/potato sides

My love to Boston

I’ve never been to Boston or lived in Boston. But I certainly felt the anxiety as the news spread that a bomb went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon last Monday.

As someone who feels closely tied to the running community, I was shocked to hear the news. I used to run quite often and have lost sight of that goal in my life. Of course last week was the start of me trying to get back into the runner’s stride.

I promised myself that this tragic event wasn’t going to stop my plans, and I stayed motivated and got out on the trails for a few runs (and one really long walk).

I know the community of runners will not be discouraged and detoured by this horrific event. But I want to send my thoughts and support to the many people in Boston and anyone who near or far who felt the anxiety of last week’s events.

Tragedy’s like this will neither be fully understood nor can it break a community this strong!

A few friends and I have already registered for the Run For Boston 5K in the north suburbs of Chicago. You can register for a virtual 5K or find a local one to join. The registration fee’s for the race will benefit those hurt in Boston last week. Hope to see you there!

Love to Boston:

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Date Night: Crepe Making Class

Dan and I have said on many occasions that we need to start doing more fun things that don’t involve sitting at a bar. Don’t get me wrong, meeting friends for a drink will always have it’s place. But we wanted to try new and exciting adult-like things!

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I found a groupon for Flip Crepe Making Class and saw it as a fun event that could potentially add to our meal planning and cooking fun. So I bough as our Valentine’s Day present for us as a couple (Dan got me a waffle maker for valentine’s time, can you tell we love food and cooking?).

So I booked our class at the end of February (I know I’m late to post this fun experience) and we headed to the city with very little expectations. We were the first to arrive at the class because we left on “Dan” time. Once class began, we made a simple batter for a yummy dinner time crepe.

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First of all, I got scared. The crepe batter and the crepe were a strange greyish color. It very much looked like gyro meat. Yes, we’re vegetarians but aren’t opposed to eating things that look like meat.

The first crepe made was kind of a mess. Dan tried to flip it and failed, so it fell apart. So we ate the crepe by itself and wow did it taste yummy! Then I tried to flip a crepe and it landed in our neighbor’s skillet and on top of their crepe. I was able to grab mine before damaging the crepe they were making, but we all had a good laugh.

The next few crepes we made turned out great. The toppings we got to chose from were a veggie mixture and then shrimp and I think chicken. Since Dan missed having shrimp, he went to town on some shrimp crepes, but I stuck with the veggies.

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The class instructor made a sweet crepe batter and brought it around for everyone to make some. This is when I got excited because I love my desserts and sweets. There were more fruit jams and stuffing options for the sweet crepes, and I was a happy gal.

Overall, this was a great date night. We brought home some leftover batter and made crepes a few days later. I even managed to triple flip a crepe and get it back in the pan without ruining the crepe itself.

Although this post is a little overdue, we meal planned to make crepes this week. So I thought it a good idea to reflect a little on the class. The groupon was worth it, and I would definitely consider another cooking class at Flip Crepes and include crepes on my meal planning even though I have yet to find a crepe spatula in stores.

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Getting back on track

Besides the fact that I just watched flurries falling outside, I am feeling like things are getting back on track. Dan has begun to move into my apartment. So we are cleaning and reorganizing things to feel like my apartment is a home. We even bought a new microwave and rearranged a lot of furniture.

One thing I’ve wanted is to get more active, working out, and going to the gym. Maybe the dark and drab winter took my motivation and energy away. Maybe I just lacked the positive attitude I had last year and last summer. But last week, I woke up in the middle of the night with cramps in my calf that were so hurtful that I woke up Dan, and he had to massage it away.

Annoying, yes. Reason to change your life, you wouldn’t think so. The real problem is that my dad was recently diagnosed with diabetes and has poor circulation in his legs and an infection on his foot. Those same things happened to his father.

I know my leg cramps are probably from dehydration, but what if it’s something bigger or will be bigger if I don’t change?

checklist

This year has brought on many changes. We gave up meat, and I am becoming quite the master chef including tofu in my meals and not just eating cheese pizza.

So after the leg cramp scare, I realized that I need a daily reminder to keep myself on track with things like staying hydrated and being more healthy overall. I created this lovely little printout I called a “Daily Checklist” and made a modified one for Dan.

Download the checklist here

Every day I can check off as I do the following:

Drink a glass of water in the morning, take fish oil pill, take my birth control, meditate for 8 minutes, do a popsicle stick workout, get 30 minutes of exercise a day, drink a glass of water before bed, and make sure I have all my meals planned for the next day.

To make things really interesting, Dan and I are making this a competition. Last time we tried to find a way to compete with each other, it just turned into an argument because our perspectives on realistic goals were so different.

Since each sheet will track for four weeks, we are going to tally up and see how gets the most accomplished. The winner will get a back massage.

To be honest, it’s not about the back massage. I realized recently that a lot of the healthy things we do are for one another. We watch out for each other, but it’s hard to remember the daily things. We started this today, and I will update everyone in four weeks as to who our winner is!

Welcome March – Get Active

Time is really not on my side lately! I feel like I can’t keep up with things and meant to post this at the beginning of March.

I’m not going to lie. I just checked, and I dedicated March’s focus on getting active. When I wrote that post, I was a crazy delusional Chicagoan who thought the cold weather and snow would be gone and that I could finally get outdoors.

But, since I’ve already broken a finger while jogging just due to the cracks in the sidewalk, going on jogs and walks outside when it’s icy is just a bad idea (especially since I am uninsured). Let’s just keep the activities indoors until I am ready to risk the outdoors. Again, that’s mostly due to the lack of insurance.

Let’s start with Yoga. All year I have been telling myself that I want to get into yoga and really give it a chance. The dvds I have at home, I just can’t get into. I fear looking dumb or falling over in a class (I’m 28 years old and really need to stop thinking like that).

Since the month is almost halfway over, I have to start getting active right away and put away the excuses. Today, I am out of town for business and this weekend is a family wedding and party. But I can still find time if I just drop the excuses.

Next, I need to get back to blogging. It definitely feels like time flies by and I lose sight of what is important when I don’t blog regularly. We are still meal-planning and making the majority of our foods.

Although my eating habits are better than before, I feel tired and sore a lot. And I know it’s due to inactivity and the lack of exercise.

Monthly Focus: De-stressing Life

So I never really thought too much about a theme for my blog for the year of 2013. Today, I realized that I should have monthly themes to focus on so that I don’t feel like I am focusing too much on one thing.

Since January was a very trying month as I gave up meat, I mainly focused on going meatless. It was great to have support of family and friends even if not everyone understands and encourages me new lifestyle choice.

For February, I need to concentrate on relieving stresses in my life. I mostly chose this because my birthday is at the end of the month, and I feel like there are things you need and things you do not need. I do not need stress interfering with my happiness. So I want to build habits that lessen my stress and make room for other good things in my life.

One thing I have noticed is that my stress gets in the way of going to the gym and being active physically. So while I focus on lessening stress, I do this to transition into March and focus on getting active and outdoors.

Game plan: meditate often, do yoga weekly, leave work stress at work EVERYDAY, get a full night of sleep, let go of the little things, wake up early and take your time in the morning, and take deep breaths when feeling anxious. Anyone have suggestions???

Here’s my plan for the year which will be updated and changed as needed:

January: Going Meatless

February: Reduce Stress

March: Get Active

April: Contribute to National Volunteer Month

May: Clean and Organize Home Spaces

June: Have Pride and Show Support

July: Shop Local / Small Business

August: Focus on Family

September: Other Language Development

October: Make your own Halloween Costume

November: Observe National Novel Writing Month – do some creative writing

December: Celebrate a Year of Growth

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Lastly, remember to subscribe to my other blog Banned Books as I read through a list of banned books and discuss the cultural significance of our society’s attempt to remove and oppose texts in schools and libraries.

My first post discussed The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I’ll next be discussing Perks of Being a Wallflower, Wide Sargasso Sea, A Clockwork Orange, and many other great books!

Banned Books Blog on Chicago Now

Check out my Banned Books Blog on Chicago Now

Volunteer Fun: Growing Power Chicago

I first heard of the Growing Power organization from a documentary on Netflix. It’s a true story. But usually when we watch documentaries about food, agriculture, and health, we see some hippie commune (I mean that in a nice way) in California or out on the West coast.

For once, they were talking about a non-profit group in the Midwest that was based out of Milwaukee and operated urban farms in Chicago. Considering both Danny Boy and I know absolutely nothing about farming and gardening, I decided it would be a great place to start learning and help out an organization whose goals we feel enthusiastic to support and help out.

We arrived on a Saturday morning for the volunteer orientation on a very cold and sad January morning. But regardless of the cold, we had a great day. Had a little tour of the urban farm and got to learn about how they can farm all year round (which I admit I didn’t think possible).

I recall Dan asking how anyone could farm in the city limits of Chicago. I believe my response was something along the lines of, “They must of figure something out or people would have died from it by now.” It turns out they did figure out a method but not one I expected. It turns out there is no way to purify the soil in Chicago. The people at Growing Power purchased a paved over lot and use the pavement to seal off the bad/corrupted soil and cover the pavement with fresh composted soil.

I was not expecting this was the solution to city pollution. I also had no clue how easy and beneficial it is to compost food scraps. I am considering finding a way to save my food garbage to bring and add to their compost. I still need to find a way to do this without my apartment smelling horrible!

The next thing I learned is that they can grow things like spinach and beets and tons of other things even in the cold winter. These little huts they made weren’t fancy greenhouses with glass windows. They were made with fencing materials and large tarps. I couldn’t believe the temperature difference when we entered. I almost expected them to have used an outside heating source.

PS – Thank you “greenhouse effect”. I thought that was just something they taught us in elementary school that really didn’t change my life in any way.

So why drive into the city limits and volunteer at an Urban Farm rather than go to farming areas just south of where I live? There is a really good reason I wanted to help this organization.

If you don’t live in a big city, you may not know what the lower class neighborhoods like look. Yes, you may see video in the news, but there’s things you don’t notice unless you drive and see it yourself.

One thing these inner city areas lack are real produce markets and grocery stores. In many areas, you only find little corner shops with nearly expired processed foods. Now don’t get me started on processed foods and why they are bad for you. But imagine being raised in a neighborhood where you can’t get whole fruits and veggies? How would your health and happiness be affected in this type of environment?

Growing Power Chicago makes an effort to bring agriculture and fresh produce to the city. They are a non-profit organization with a mission that includes both educating people about the health benefits of locally grown produce and helping rebuild the inner city neighborhoods from within.

While I may not have the extra money to donate to their cause, I will continue to volunteer there throughout the year. I hope to spread the word of their mission. You can contribute to Growing Power by sending me cash… Just kidding! Go to their official website and find a way to help out or share their message!

Great News, Friends!

So far, I’m making 2013 quite productive! I’ve kept my promise to give up meat and am doing well. Being meat-free has made me a happy girl!

Now, I have exciting news. I’m doubling up on my blogging efforts and will be positing under two sites.

I’ll continue my personal and clumsy stories here on Col Says, but I will also be posting on Chicago Now’s Banned Books Blog. Please go and subscribe! I’ll be reading through banned books and discussing the books as texts as well as the subject of censorship and reflecting on the society that tries to ban it.

Seriously go and subscribe! It’ll be a fun time, I promise!

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