Thursday, November 20, 2014


Congratulations to Marsha, the winner of the Weekend Family Pass to the Chicago Toy & Game Fair, and thank you to all who entered.

Hope to see you all there!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Chicago Toy & Game Fair Giveaway

This is a sponsored post. In exchange for writing about this event, I have received free passes for myself and my family to attend.

Every year, my husband and daughter, both self-proclaimed game nuts, make a pilgrimage to the Chicago Toy & Game Fair, then come home and rave about all the fun they have had. 

Favorite finds from past fairs include The Presidential GameNuns on the Run, and the quick and fun Swish. We are pretty sure Santa does his early-bird shopping at this event.

I've finally gotten smart and decided to join the rest of my family there this weekend, and you can, too! Just check out my Koritelling Facebook page for your chance to win!

my Koritelling Facebook page

*Important note: this is my first time using Rafflecopter for a giveaway. Please let me know if you have any unforeseen technical difficulties.

Monday, November 10, 2014


Today is my birthday, and I am ready to enjoy. I love birthdays. I know lots of people like to be low-key, avoiding the center of attention, etc. I live for the center, especially when it involves kind wishes and gifts for no other reason than I've continued to live for 365 more days.

Is it wrong to admit that? Guess what? At age 41, I don't care. It's true.

I kicked off age 40 with a bang, in San Diego, renting a house with friends. I vowed with my friends, also turning 40, that I was going to make this a "take no prisoners" year of getting things done, being brave, and being authentic. Starting this new whole-life centered blog, leaving my mom blog behind, was the start of that.

Upon getting home, we began the final push to get the condo completely organized and up on the market. I could not believe how nicely it turned out, given how crummy I am at keeping house. We recently took it off MLS for a few months, and will be ready to list again in "real estate spring," aka "around the Super Bowl." The fact that we had a very neat and tidy house for six straight months was some kind of miracle, and is definitely cause to celebrate.

In the spring, along with putting the house up, we had to say goodbye to our dog, Ada. Want to feel like a real grown-up, not just someone playing pretend? Make the decision to put an animal who is suffering to sleep. It was heart wrenching, but also peaceful, all at the same time. We all still get deep pangs of missing her, especially when we remember her in her prime, but mostly, we smile when we think of her now. The remedy: a puppy named Admiral Grace Hopper, adopted in August, and driving us insane in the way that only a puppy can. There is little time for grief when you have to stop an animal from chewing everything you own.

Look at her. Even sleeping, she must have all the chew toys.

This summer marked a big turning point for our kiddo, as we moved her from her selective enrollment public school in the spring to a small, private school this fall. The picture below shows her entire new school, a big change from 30 kids+ per classroom.

We are such big believers in public education, this was extremely hard for us to do. Given all the testing, though—testing, testing, testing—and our belief that a democratic, free school would be great for expanding her creativity, we made the move. A few months in, and child and parents all seem to be adjusted. No homework = the best thing in the world.

Fall brought the biggest highlight of the entire year: I was able to officiate the wedding of our friends, Katy and Rebecca. (Thank you, online officiant's license.) Honestly, that wedding wasn't just a year forty highlight, it was a lifetime highlight. It was special from rehearsal to ceremony to filing their official license in the basement of the Cook County courthouse (I was smiling so broadly, you would have thought I was the one who had just gotten married.)

Seriously, how could this not make you giddy?

Finally, just days before turning forty-one, I closed out the year by making a prize-winning pie. I can't tell you how excited and proud that surprise win made me. My number in the contest, given to me randomly? Forty.

Today starts a new year, with the prospect of being "in my forties" as opposed to being a forty-year old transitional novelty item. I'm ready. I'm looking at surgery and major lifestyle change to improve my health. I'm volunteering more, and looking for bigger, more full-time work prospects. I'm putting the condo back on the market, and our family is going to roll the dice and see what happens.

As for tonight, I'm grabbing Korean food with my family and a cake I didn't have to bake myself, and calling this year a win.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

So, This Happened

Remember all that kvetching about pie-making?

Well, umm, yeah. It all worked out okay.

That's a picture of me with the creator of the South Side Pie Challenge, Julie, and my kiddo. In the child's hands is my blue ribbon for the cream pie division.

I feel incredibly lucky. I really, truly, was not sure the pie would even work, and with no test pie made beforehand, I had every reason to believe a crash and burn were in my future.

I also feel very pleased that all these years of cooking and baking have amounted to enough practice to pull something like this off, even if it required a healthy dollop of beginner's luck, too.

I'm most thrilled, however, that the event—an event that was really a representation of Hyde Park (and Chicago!) at its best—raised over $2,500 for local hunger programs.

The pie will only be made again if my trial and error technique can be winnowed down into a simpler, streamlined version, which I think I can do. I'll post my recipe if I can make it into something that does not make bakers go cuckoo preparing it. 

Thanks for all the support, friends!

Saturday, November 8, 2014


Three days in a row, everywhere I go, Richard Marx is playing on the radio.

I'm apparently in ninth grade now.

That is all.

Friday, November 7, 2014

So Nutty

You thought I was going to post about the cashew pie I'm making for the South Side Pie Challenge, right?


I'm writing today about my progress in pursuing bariatric surgery.

I draw you in with pie, then I tell you more about laparoscopic procedures. It's the old pie/surgery switch-a-roo, for you. Ha ha!

As I talk to more and more loved ones about the possibility of undergoing a vertical sleeve gastrectomy, I can hear the worry in their voices. Am I sure I need surgery? Do I understand surgery is risky, sometimes even fatal? Do I really know that I can't take care of my obesity through any other way?

I am so grateful people care about me. This is a very hard decision, but here is what my research tells me: the majority of people with obesity as severe as mine do not eliminate enough weight long term without surgery to reduce the many comorbidities that accompany this disease. Success rates for weight loss surgery are the highest among any treatment course.  I could link to many research articles which show this, but I'll spare you the stats. Surgery is scary, and violent, and mutilating, even as it saves lives. With this in mind, I can say this:

I believe that I am currently dying of the disease, obesity, and I believe that surgery is the best shot I have at saving my own life.

Yes, I may have complications. Yes, I could die from one of them. The chances of death from laparoscopic surgery or nosocomial infection are very low, given a good surgical team and a safe hospital, and pale in comparison to the risks of not losing body mass.

As for using less invasive methods to control my weight, I must continue to make behavior changes, follow a healthy diet, and pursue consistent exercise, in order to be well. A gastric sleeve cannot cure me, it is just a tool, albeit the best tool currently available to get me where I need to be.

Now, if you really want to scare people you love, tell them that you might fly to San Diego, then cross the border to Tijuana for the surgery.

It sounds nuts, right? So nuts!  I posed that question, "Am I totally nuts to consider this?" to my girlfriends this week, for roughly the hundredth time, and my friend, Carrie, hit the nail on the head when she replied, "It's one of those things that sounds nuts until you research it."

That has been exactly my experience.

Researching surgeons and facilities is difficult. Getting complication and mortality rates is challenging. Finding former patients with feedback (good and bad) involves some reaching out of your comfort zone, and exposing your own struggles. Getting the skinny (no pun intended) on what surgery in a far away place looks like without having visited there takes a good amount of sleuthing and persistence.

Here's the thing, though: this is true for surgeons and hospitals both inside and outside the United States. If I am going to have to have this surgery on a self-pay basis, I will likely have to travel. This means that, in the age of medical tourism, it is sometimes the more foreign places which do a better job at disclosing information, handling logistics, and giving you a view of their surgical procedures and hospital environment.

Case in point, here is one of the doctors/practices I am currently interviewing. You can see his CV, check his license, get his volumes, etc., all online, both on his site and through general web research. You can then talk to his coordinator via email, phone, or text with any concerns or questions. If you have a few moments, take a look.

This is just one of the surgical practices with this kind of information, although I like this one a lot because you have the opportunity to look up their whole team, including anesthesiologist, internists, and surgical nurses, as well as the facility.

Nothing is decided, yet. We had a great conversation with our insurance coordinator today, who is going to work hard to see if we can get this surgery covered here, despite it being an exclusion at first glance. We have interviews with doctors here in Chicago (too pricey, but their practice might be able to provide before and after care, and recommend less expensive options for surgery), and in Michigan, all before Thanksgiving. It is too soon to say if I will be heading out of the country to make this happen. I'm not excluding it as a possibility, though, because the more I investigate, the more I believe it is a logical and safe option…

…and while I wait, I think starting the Duolingo Spanish program wouldn't be a terrible idea.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

"Easy As Pie" is a Giant Lie

Here's the current state of my progress, with two pies (you have to bring two identical pies, egad) for the South Side Pie Challenge half-way through completion:
  1. Every bowl, utensil, and appliance in our kitchen is dirty, and strewn about the countertops,
  2. The fridge is now filled to the brim.
  3. Two pies with thick-but-crumbly crusts are chilling out, coated with bittersweet chocolate ganache; I am 100% sure they will fall apart upon cutting, so they will be more like messy trifle than pie.
  4. I have homemade custard/pudding cooling to room temperature, which took 45 minutes of constant whisking instead of 3-5, as noted on the recipe, and does not taste any better than Jello pudding.
  5. I have no idea, now that I see and taste this pudding, how I'm going to incorporate the cashew butter I made yesterday.
  6. I have half a gallon of whole milk left, as well as eight egg whites. What on earth am I going to do with a half a gallon of whole milk and eight egg whites?
  7. My family keeps trying to eat my ingredients before I use them, making me less than friendly with them. Why don't they just want whole milk and egg whites?
  8. I'm now laughing at my own hubris, thinking, "you have to make up a recipe if you are going to enter," and realizing that if you don't really know how to make pie, following directions on a can of pumpkin would be advisable.
  9. My hands are sticky. I hate being sticky.
  10. I'm debating whether having a glass of bourbon while I stay up late to slog through pudding/nut butter fusion will make everything much better, or everything much worse.
I'm just happy this is all for such a good cause, and I get to see so many great friends this weekend at the event. Easy as pie? Cue the hysterical laughing.

Pie-making is so messy. So, so, so messy.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


This weekend, I am competing in a pie contest. All this week, I've been trying to figure out how to make something contest-worthy, which is tricky, since I almost never make pie. Cakes, cookies, candies, cheesecakes: yes, please! Pies? Maybe a pumpkin for Thanksgiving, or an apple if we go picking (although I'd rather make this, every time, without exception.)

The truth is, I don't like pie.

I believe there are cake people, ice cream people, and pie people, and the folks who meet in their intersections, especially when accompanied by the words "a la mode."

Here's a breakdown:

Pie people: those folks who really like cooked fruit, as well as "the simple things in life," that aren't simple at all, but are really rather fussy

Cake people: chocoholics, carboholics, and those bakers who really, really like leveling everything off to a precise measure

Ice cream people: kids at heart who love creamy, cold goodness, and don't worry if they offend the pie and cake people who spent hours in a hot kitchen baking when they forgo their homemade creations and dig into the store-bought frozen treat meant simply to accompany them

I know lots of people who like two of the treats particularly, especially when served together, but honestly, I don't know nearly as many who like them all, equally. I'm guessing the small section in the center of this Venn diagram hosts sugar addicts and really agreeable uncles, you know the kind, the ones who ask you to make up a plate for them at Thanksgiving, and really don't care what you jumble up on it, they'll just eat it gratefully and thank you for it. God Bless those uncles.

You know what? Those uncles skew the data. They'd eat a can of dinty moore with some cherry gelatin on top and tell you it was the best meal you've ever made. They can't be included in these findings. Here's the real schematic:

Yep, cake and pie, in their corners, with only ice cream to serve as their liaison. That rings more true. As a cake + ice cream person, pie is not even on my radar. One of my brothers is a pie person—he used to swap out birthday cake for an apple pie every year. I thought that was the saddest thing in the world as a kid; didn't he know what he was asking for was so much less fabulous than cake? As we've grown older, I've learned our dessert preferences probably were a good indication of how we'd see things differently on many fundamental points. Thank goodness for ice cream, which brings us together in family harmony.

This weekend, though, my personal feelings about pie don't matter, as the South Side Pie Challenge is all about raising money for local hunger programs. I'm a sucker for this cause: each year, Mike and I host a New Year's Eve sushi party where we invite our guests to bring items to restock one of our local food pantries following the holidays, just as our Chicago winter is turning from cold and unpleasant to bracingly frigid. Even though Christmas is the pinnacle of the holiday season, dropping food off following our NYE party is always one of the most sacred moments of the season for us. 

Depending on my plans to have surgery this year, we may take a hiatus from our annual party.  It feels like a good year to have a break. Several of our close friends and neighbors have moved to different parts of the country, and the party will be decidedly different without them here. Quite frankly, after keeping my house clean for real estate showings from April through October, the added incentive of getting a clean house because I'm having guests over for a party doesn't seem nearly as appealing as in past years. Been there, done that. The only thing that makes me feel truly sad about a cancellation is thinking about that food pantry, and how great the need is for it to be stocked.

So...pie. I can make a pie. I like to figure things out in the kitchen. Have I made this pie before? Heck no. Do I have a recipe? Only the one in my head. Will it taste good? Who knows! The only way for any of us to know is to show up and taste it, along with many other (likely much more delicious) entries.

Eat pie, and do good, too? YES, PLEASE.

(For those curious, I'm making something that may or may not fall to pieces or blob out into a mush, but it will have bittersweet chocolate and cashew cream, so how bad could it really be, right?)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


Fun fact of the day: my polling place is the same as the President and First Lady's. It's true! I'm very, very grateful that they vote absentee/early ballot, because waiting on the secret service and press trucks is not how you make voting fast and easy.

Now, if a local elementary school gym is good enough for my neighbors and me to exercise our rights, I'm sure your polling place is probably just as dandy.

Let's face it, midterm elections don't have the same panache as the presidential ones. Some years, and in some places, they seem easy to ignore—that might be where you are at right now. This year in our state, Illinois, a close gubernatorial race has made all media turn to attack ad central, giving us a silver lining no matter who wins: no matter what, the ads stop tomorrow.

(For goodness sake, they even invaded my Hulu time. It's a bad day when online streaming gets a dose of partisan hate, because those commercials can't be easily skipped.)

We don't always make it easy to vote in the United States. Election Day is always on a Tuesday, whereas many other countries hold voting on weekends. There are differing I.D. laws state-to-state, and these change regularly. Sometimes election officials get threatened, then they don't show up.

But still, GO VOTE!


Liberty, freedom, democracy, independence...none of those things function just as ideas. They only work when they are put into practice. In fact, hearing people simply wax on about those concepts, without them in place for the listeners, is not only insufferable, it can be cruel.

Voting today doesn't mean the politicians are going to get it all right. But we ARE the government, only inasmuch as we pick people to represent our interests, then hold them accountable. If you don't run for office, the only way to practice your principles is to vote for those who do.

Heading out soon, where I'll cast my vote, then pick up my "I Voted" sticker. I'll wear it happily, even if the people whose policies make me feel physically ill win later on. Practice (eventually) makes perfect, right?

Monday, November 3, 2014

Squeezably Soft

Things may be progressing quicker than I thought possible for a vertical sleeve gastrectomy, thank you, medical tourism. (Not sure why I'd have this surgery? Read here.) With a potential DECEMBER date on the table (gasp! faint!), I'm trying to figure out, logistically, if I can make this happen, and more importantly, if I am emotionally and physically ready for it to happen. My gut is telling me I am, and it is surprising me.

With that in mind, on the way from school to Girl Scout drop-off today, I chatted with the kiddo about how me flying out of town to get surgery might look and feel, and to get her thoughts. Time in the car can be our best discussion time, and I try to capitalize on it without exploiting it.

I talked about how my diet will be changing, permanently, and how I will need to do a temporary liquid diet both before and after surgery. I told her it might be hard for me to make meals for her and her dad while I am only drinking protein shakes and broth, but I will do my best. Then I suggested that once I start eating again, some of the things I make might have to change. I'll need more protein and vegetables, and less starchy foods, like pasta, bread or rice.

She replied, "We don't eat much of that stuff, anyway," which is true.

Then she started to cry.

I asked her if she was worried about the surgery. Nope.

"I don't want to stop having Taco Tuesday. I love Taco Tuesdays!"

It's about priorities, people. TACO TUESDAY.

After I told her Taco Tuesdays are still fine, she snapped out of it, suggesting that I don't serve pasta, bread or rice with tacos, anyway, and I could probably just skip the tortillas. "Good thinking," I told her.

A few minutes went by, listening to the radio, then she jumped back in, answering my earlier question.

"I'm not worried about the rest of the stuff. I won't mind if you get skinnier."

I told her that I wouldn't mind, either, and how I really wanted to feel better and be able to do more things with her, and a smaller body would make that more possible. Then she started getting sniffly again, this time in a quieter, more private way.

I asked again, "Are you okay, EJ?"

"Yes, I won't mind if you get skinnier, but Mom, I'm really going to miss hugging you with my whole body. I'm going to miss the body you have now. I love it."

Gulp. I started pushing back tears, grateful that we weren't facing each other, and said, "You will never, ever need to stop holding me with your whole body, no matter how big or small this body is, I promise."

We both cried some more. It was a muted sobfest heading up northbound Lakeshore Drive.

I broke the weepiness by saying, "When you were a baby, I could snuggle you like a baby. Now you are a girl, and I can hug you like a big kid. Sometimes I miss what it feels like to snuggle my baby, but then I hug you, and you are the same person as that baby, and I love you as you are right now, so I don't miss it anymore. Bodies change, but people are who they are."

"Still, I will miss you in this body, Mom, just how it feels when I hug it. I will also miss your giant feet."

"Well, my feet won't change size," I told her.

"Whew. That is a relief."

Crying = over.

That my kid loves me as I am as a person isn't surprising, but it is lovely to hear. That my kid loves me as I am as a body, with all of my extra inches, humbles me beyond belief.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Busy Sunday

Somehow, in the thoughtful arrangement of our individual schedules, we have ended up with a busy Sunday almost every week. We don't have many standard family commitments, aside from church and CCD, but things always fill in the gaps. School meetings. Deadlines. Kid get-togethers. Book club. None of it is bad, or even stuff we don't want to do (save for those deadlines), but all of it together makes for a restless day of rest. Even with an extra hour of sleep thanks to "fall back," the theme of today's Sunday was "tiring."

On paper it is so easy to say, "Set limits! Say no! Protect your family time! Take care of yourself, first." Life collides with all of those good intentions, though, and sometimes the best you can do is try to carve out 30 minutes of breathing room, and acquiesce that you may need to simply order take-out. 

So as I type this, fresh from a school meeting, which was preceeded by a deadline, which came after a youth group pancake breakfast, which followed a special church performance (Fauré's Requiem, so fantastic), which we drove to from our regular church after the kiddo attended CCD, I'm grateful to have one half-an-hour to write on my blog, sort the mail, throw the tennis ball for our puppy, and wait for chicken korma to arrive. It is the best I can do to fulfill the "peace be with you" I received hours earlier, and I'm taking it.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

HAILoween, NaBloPoMo

Hey, everyone! It's November 1st! You know what that means?

1) We are all in a sugar coma.
2) Our kids are alternately hyper, then grumpy, then hyper again.
3) It's National Blog Posting Month (#NaBloPoMo)

I'm going to try to write on this blog every single day this month, even when I am no longer fueled by tiny boxes of Nerds I picked out of my daughter's candy bin. You read that correctly, EVERY SINGLE DAY. Because of what is going on in my life right now, a lot of my writing may center upon my current search for a provider for a self-pay laparoscopic vertical sleeve gastrectomy. Of course, it might not. I may just tell you what I make for dinner, and how angry I am that it is getting cold. All bets are off with a daily deadline.

I'm also—hopefully—going to figure out how to video blog this month, as a personal goal, to break up some of the writing, and to experiment in the hope of being prepared to document my gastric surgery pre- and post-op. As I have been doing my own research, videos posted with real accounts from real patients have been incredibly helpful and inspirational. I'd love to contribute to that community.

Before all that starts, though, I'm going to kick-off today's month of posts with a recap on our Chicago Halloween, or as we will always refer to it, HAILoween 2014 (thank you to my friend, Desirée, for coining that phrase.)

Early in the day yesterday, we realized that what the meteorologists had been warning had indeed come true: our temps had dropped drastically, and we were now, effectively, having a winter day. IT SNOWED, then rained, THEN SNOWED AGAIN. The trees, many still quite green with only hints of fall colors, started getting whipped around by 60 mph gusts. All frozen hell broke loose. I joked that this would be the year of "trick-or-sleeting."

It was one of those days when you just pray you don't need to leave the house, but of course, it was the one day in the fall where roaming around outside is an absolute must. After school, I tried to bribe my fancy witch-clad daughter into just trick-or-treating around our block, and in exchange, I'd take her to the store and buy her whole bags of her favorite candies. She didn't buy in. The hubby and I suited up for the weather—I even tracked down my long underwear—and we convinced the kiddo to wear her winter coat over her costume, much to her chagrin. Instead of walking over to the far corner of our neighborhood, where a street of Victorian homes which survived the Chicago fire becomes the spookiest place on the south side, we drove, parked nearby, and tried to pretend this was all an excellent idea.

Here's a photo of the kiddo, just moments after getting out of the car, ready to hit the first house:

She looks pretty chippy here, right? Hat tilted, coat matching her costume, mom's eye shadow on...what could go wrong?

Roughly two minutes after taking this picture, it began hailing. HAILING. It continued for a solid 10 minutes—we'd never seen anything like that before—broke for a few moments, and then came back again over and over for long stretches. Our poor puppy, who our daughter had dressed in a black cat costume, became soaked, with hailstones matted into her schnoodle fur. We picked her up and held her in our coats for much of the night, as the kiddo raced from one house to another, occasionally slipping on ice coming down the wooden Victorian stoops.

You know how sometimes, when things are so outlandishly horrible, you just start hysterically laughing, because, honestly, what else can you do? As we sprinted from house to house with a wet, shaking dog in our coats, ice pellets lashing our faces, we laughed until we thought we would burst. We were at once physically miserable and mentally giddy at the same time. IT WAS HAILING. IT WAS HAILOWEEN. 

I tried to capture the chaos, but I couldn't do it justice.

You can hear the frog in my throat as I describe the situation in the video. Did I mention we are all still getting over the three-week cold going around? The poor kiddo, who bulleted through the candy-collecting portion of the evening with aplomb, felt much worse when we were done, even mildly feverish. I know, I know, the weather can't make you sick. You know what, though? Getting pelted with ice and soaked through can't help, either. We decided to skip a much-anticipated Halloween potluck with friends and head home to eat warm stuff, drink hot liquids, and call it a night.

Hailoween, I won't ever forget you. I don't ever want to repeat you, either.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Dearly, Alas

Last week, EJ decided to send a letter to her old class at public school. She got an envelope, pulled out her old yearbook from her memorabilia box, looked up the school address, and started making out note cards for all of the kids. I left her to her own devices, and told her to call me when she needed a stamp.

Because it is a magnet classroom, 90% of the kids are the same year-to-year, which means that, when EJ left this year, she was leaving a room of kids with whom she had spent most of her time for four straight years. She likes her new school, likes the new kids, etc., but obviously misses her old environment, too. I'd be shocked if she didn't.

Today, as I was doing a little straightening before guests came over, I found this on her craft table.

Drama much? Dearly. Alas. GULP.

When I think about the transition from public school to democratic free school, I don't worry that it was the wrong choice. The reduction in the stress level in our home, the increase in our child's overall curiosity and creativity, and the positive feelings being (re)fostered about learning are worth all the emotional stuff that comes with making a big change. Still though, the guilt with this...the guilt is strong.

It isn't simple though, this nostalgic reaction to change. Case in point: EJ is still attending Girl Scouts with her old school troop, and loves getting to have a visit at her old stomping grounds a couple of times a month. When I asked her after her last meeting if she had fun hanging out with her old classmates, she said, "Actually, I spend most of my time with a new girl from another class, she's really nice."

That's right: when placed in an environment specifically to allow her to easily retain the long-lasting friends she dearly misses (her words), she feels secure enough to hang out with a girl she's just met this year, instead.

I remember when parents of older kids would look at me with my non-stop toddler and say, "It gets harder," and I'd just sigh and think, "Oh, goodness, please don't warn me of something I can't stop, anyway, I'm already so exhausted and I can never sit down. Are you even watching this toddler siphon off my last bit of energy?" Every year, I watch the non-stop action go more and more internal, and while I don't have to chase her all over anymore, I certainly can't follow all the action as easily as I could keep my kid safe via monitors and baby gates.

And yes, I know, it gets even harder, still. Let's just hope I still find little notes occasionally to keep me in the loop.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Magic Elixir

What's happening in this pot on my stove, right this very moment, is magic.

That's chicken stock: foundation of so many meals, elixir of health, comforter of souls.

There are very few things that as a home-cook/foodie—scratch that, there are very few things that as a person, full-stop—give me as much satisfaction as making homemade stock. It has everything, in opposites, all at once: planning + spontaneity, simplicity (in preparation) + complexity (in taste), tradition + variety/innovation.

Many weekdays, I can feel scattered, oscillating between boredom (with lulls in my "real" work, and only mindless housework to fill those gaps) and freneticism (moving between kid activities and husband meetings and personal commitments, usually all planned in overlapping occasions.) It is very easy, at the end of a day, to be both tired and unsure if anything of consequence even got done. Duality is the constant theme. It can feel unsatisfying.

Not today, though, oh no. Today is a chicken stock day. Today that duality got harnessed into something both incredibly basic and deliciously remarkable, all at once. Today I opened up my freezer and pulled out the leek tops and chicken carcass I saved from two previous meals, and thanked my past self for not throwing them away, which always seems easier in the moment. I went into my fridge and grabbed the half-onion I wrapped up on Monday after making a small bit of tuna salad, as well as a few organic carrots and celery stalks purchased on sale. I walked outside to our herb garden on the patio, just off the kitchen, and got the last bits of herbs hanging on: rosemary, chives, marjoram, sage, and even a tiny sprig of Thai basil, just to mix it up a bit. I pulled out my stash of Penzey's spices, picking out a fat dried bay leaf, and pouring out some mixed peppercorns and kosher salt. Into the pot went all of these things, with no real cutting or fuss, just some washing and breaking up with my hands, and covering with plain-old Chicago's finest, Lake Michigan tap water, until the pot was full. I walked away, but then remembered garlic—how could I forget garlic?—so I returned and dropped in a few cloves.

Stock is so forgiving. If I don't have all of my usual ingredients, but have enough, I can make something tasty. If I want to try something new, it's all good. If I forget something, it can always be added later. Stock doesn't judge, bless its collagen-laced heart.

Ten minutes after simmer today, the aroma started to waft out of the kitchen, and it is…well, let's just say, I wish you were here. Divine? Is that too strong a term? My husband, who works from a home office, just peeked out from his secret sanctum of headphones and total focus to ask, dreamily, "What are you making for dinner?" I, too, find myself distracted as I type this, the smell taking over the space in the best kind of way, and we aren't even an hour into the process.

When I make chicken stock, I feel totally satisfied; if nothing else goes well in a day, by evening I will have a dinner in my belly that has made us all smile (tonight: butternut squash risotto), and a freezer packed with the promise of yumminess for at least a month to come, maybe longer. Stock rewards me for my past thoughtfulness with ingredients saved, and pays out in future tastiness via soups, stews, rice dishes, noodles, casseroles…stock just gives and gives.

Do you know why magical characters have cauldrons? I think all the talk of "eye of newt" is greatly exaggerated, and if they are magic, can't they just conjure up any potion they need? No, I think if a witch or warlock really wants to feel powerful, there is only one thing to make in their oversized cast iron pots: chicken stock. It's the real magic elixir.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

MyClean Winners!

May I have a drumroll please…

…and the winners of the one-time free housecleaning service are…

Thanks, everyone, for entering. Lucky winners, the folks at MyClean will be reaching out to you this week to tell you how to redeem your free cleaning voucher.

And remember, local friends, we can all be winners! If you would like to try out MyClean and live in the Chicago area, your first cleaning service will be $50 off if you use coupon code KoriTelling50.

Thanks, everyone!

Friday, October 3, 2014

MyClean Giveaway and Discount Code

This post is sponsored by MyClean. In exchange for a review of their cleaning services, I received a free "Get It Clean," appointment, as well as a discount code to share with all of you, and the chance for three blog readers to win a free cleaning service of their own. All opinions within this blog are mine, and have not been reviewed or approved by MyClean prior to publication.

As promised after yesterday's introspective tome about the thing that weighs me down (, today's post is a fun one, and will give three lucky Chicago readers the opportunity to win a free housecleaning service.

You read that correctly, FREE CLEANING. And for those readers who aren't lucky winners, don't worry: MyClean has provided a promo code for all of you good for $50 off your first cleaning service. I like games where everyone wins.

Before I give away the goods, let me share my experience with the MyClean.

I like to do things online, so I appreciated their simple cleaning request form. Using sliders, you can choose your number of bedrooms, bathrooms, cleaning frequency, and level of cleaning required. As you move the sliders, the price adjusts to reflect the cost of your request. Take a look:

See how happy that lady looks? She's happy because she just ordered a cleaning one-handed while her child insisted on being held. Again, everyone wins!

If you request recurrent cleanings, you can receive up to a 15% discount, and if you prefer a specific staff member, you can reserve them for your weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly home or office cleanings. Specific services, like event and post-construction clean-up, as well as outdoor space and retail location cleanings, are available as well.

I put in my request on Monday, and was able to pick a time for the next day had I needed it. I chose a mid-day Thursday appointment, and our cleaner arrived right on time, ready to go. This was a real feat, as our neighbor, President Obama, came to town in between my cleaning order and the actual appointment, creating a secret service lockdown around our condo. On Wednesday, I received a confirmation of my cleaning, at which point I emailed back to let them know that they would have to park on an adjunct street and come through federal security. Our cleaner, Sherritta (Ritta), had arrived with plenty of time to adjust to this added hurdle, and had all of the information I had provided in my email to make getting to our building possible. If they can arrive through the secret service, I think I can officially endorse them as reliable.

Once a friendly, very sweet-to-our-puppy (who kept jumping on her) Ritta introduced herself, we talked about what I really needed done. I let her know that the two areas I could really use help were cleaning our dusty blinds throughout the house, and getting the baseboards/corners/shelves clean. Although I did not order the deep clean service, the treatment she gave those areas was move-in/move-out thorough. Here's an up-close photo of clean blinds, a thing of beauty:

Ritta was in our home for roughly eight hours, which is longer than I anticipated. She used a combination of our cleaners and hers, although clients can request that everything used be from their own stock, or that MyClean bring all their environmentally-friendly cleaning products in. Her work was solid, and her personality was wonderful. Even as our dog tried to lick the floors as she cleaned them, she stayed patient and helpful. That puppy was probably just trying to warn her not to work so hard, as roughly 30 minutes after Ritta left, Gracie dunked herself in her water bowl, then ran all over the house with wet paws. Sorry, Ritta. I enjoyed those clean floors for a half-an-hour, I promise.

"Naughty? Who me? Why yes, these floors look too clean, let me fix that."
Before she left, Ritta gave me this completed checklist, with the items we agreed upon finished. My only additional request would have been vacuuming, but there was not time for this in the end. Ritta pointed out that when clients' homes are vacuumed, it is always done with their own machines, as MyClean does not want to track dust or allergens from one home to another.

This morning, I received a follow-up email, thanking me for my service, as asking me to complete a quick survey to review my experience.

To sum up:

Best features of MyClean Chicago service: Ease of use, friendly service, effective cleaning.
Things I would change, if possible: Add multiple people when necessary to make appointment faster (this can be requested), estimate based on square footage as well as number of rooms to better predict appointment duration.

While we have a regular cleaner who has helped us out for many years, I would definitely use MyClean again, especially for deep cleans, or just to mix things up and catch the stuff that neither my family or our regular cleaning person notice.

NOW, Chicago friends, don't just take my recommendation, try MyClean for yourself! Koritelling readers can receive a $50 discount on their first service by using promotion code: KoriTelling50.

In addition, type a comment on this post about your least favorite housecleaning task (mine is laundry) before 7:00 p.m. CST on Monday, October 6th, and you will be entered to win a FREE CLEANING. Winners will be announced on Tuesday, October 7th, and will have two days to claim their prize (directions to follow on Tuesday), at which point if any are unclaimed, I will chose new entries.

A big thank you to MyClean for this giveaway, and for the great experience yesterday.

Good luck, everyone!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Big Story (The Continuing Story)

Important Disclaimer:

This post is about obesity. Not obesity, in the general, "America is the fattest nation in the world, please be ashamed while looking at all this headless, faceless video footage of wide behinds and bulging guts walking down city sidewalks" way that you see it reported on the news. Do you think those folks realize their butts are being videotaped for segments like that? I would be really irritated if my butt ever showed up on the evening news unwittingly, but I digress.

Today I'm writing about my obesity. The obesity I am living with today, in October 2014. This version is different than the one I lived with last year, or five years ago, or even a decade ago, when I was pregnant and much, much slimmer and healthier, but still, technically, obese.

If you do not want to read a truthful, sometimes upsetting account of my current experience, I get it. Come back tomorrow. Tomorrow I will be doing a giveaway, the tone will be light, and if you live in the Chicago area, you will be able to get a discount for house-cleaning.

I have written about this subject before, both here at Koritelling, and at my previous blog, Mommylu's World. I will likely write about it many more times, too, since obesity is not an ailment that disappears quickly, even with the best care.

Alrighty, disclaimer done. Do you feel better? I do!

Let me be clear about why I am writing today.

  1. I am not seeking pity. To keep an honest blog in which I tell personal stories but do not include occasional updates on obesity would be ludicrous, given the role it plays in my daily life; that said, I don't write this for any particular response from others. If you reach out to me, you may want me to know that you care, or that you wish this could be different. Thank you. I wish that, too. Support = yes. Pity = no, thank you. I got a terrible shake when it comes to weight, but I am fortunate in so many other ways, pity is never required.
  2. I am not seeking diet or fitness advice. You want to know about calories? The latest "good" food versus "forbidden" food? The increasing variety of couch-to-5K program? Whether carbs or fat or gluten or dairy or sticks or twigs are the best to have for breakfast while slimming down? ASK A FAT PERSON. I'm pleased your nutrition and work-out routine work for you, or your sister, or your aunt, or this lady that you knew growing up who was "so overweight, it was so sad," but has recently lost so much weight you "could barely recognize her" when you ran into her at your hometown hardware store while looking at paint swatches. I promise I have people to call when I need ideas of how to address my weight. And if you ever catch me at a cocktail party and want to hear some hilariously funny stories of how well-meaning, but incredibly rude, acquaintances have approached me to tell me about weight loss strategies at the most inopportune/humiliating times, I am happy to provide you with at least 20-30 minutes of uncomfortable laughter.
  3. I am not seeking blame or shame. I do not feel to blame for my current condition, but I do feel responsible for my choices and their outcome. I do feel shame, regularly, and I work hard to address that feeling. Shame is horrible, and it accomplishes nothing toward behavior change.
  4. I am not seeking consensus. I can only speak for myself, but if what I say resonates, I hope that you will use it to act with compassion to those in your life who may be in the same situation.
  5. I am seeking connection. When you read this, you will know an obese person. If this seems like a bad idea, please return to the disclaimer at the top, and I'll see you tomorrow, friend.
Another year has gone by with more doctor's visits, more feeling awful, more trying to address my diet and exercise, and always feeling like I cannot outsmart the weight-creating machine. 

Does it feel like a fight? Heck yeah. It is the worst kind of fight, a fight with the vehicle in which I rely to carry me in this world, the vessel that I wish to praise and to treat with tenderness. It is a reluctant, terrible fight to survive.

I wish, just for a moment, I could transport others into my skin, to feel the physical weight of the sensation of getting bigger and bigger, of always feeling both hungry and nauseous (and often getting sick), of bumping into things and not fitting into restaurant and movie-theater chairs. The worry that comes with "not fitting" is now almost constant: if I come out to attend an event with you, or travel to see you by plane or train, please know how very much I value you, because I am putting my worry (and reality) of not fitting in my seat aside to brave the experience, understanding that I may be embarrassed and physically hurt (as often happens) if the chair I must sit in has arms that squeeze me in.

I wish, for just one doctor's visit, I could make others a fly on the wall as we discuss test results. A pre-fatty liver. Worries that cholesterol could get high. Insulin-resistance. Headaches. Backaches. Sore joints. Irritable bowel syndrome. All with the doctor's shoulder shrug that says, "I don't know how to fix this, either, I don't know how to put all the pieces together." The discussions about the miracles of weight-loss surgery, and my perfect candidacy, with its accompanying risk of killing me or creating life-threatening complications. The reality that, sadly, my insurance will not cover the cost, so I cannot even consider surgical options, the only treatments (so far) that appear to immediately change the gut flora for obese people, eliminating insulin resistance, digestive problems, and hormone-controlled constant hunger. I wish folks could see my face drop and my shoulders slump as I am told, once again, by my concerned physician that I should meet with the hospital nutritionist—yes, I have done this before, but will try again, as it is the only help provided.

I wish, just for one nutritionist's visit, others could be there as we use antiquated dietary recommendations for weight loss—skim milk, no eggs, only diet bread, cottage cheese (YUCK) on everything, etc.—as the start of our discussion, but then try to navigate the complicated waters of my own personal digestive struggles. 
  • Avocado is healthy fat, but it makes me sick. No, I can't sub avocado for other things with this food plan we are working on, I just have to give up that fat, but of course, I won't feel very full. That won't work? The other fats I suggest are actually trigger foods? Yikes.
  • Crunchy vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower make my stomach so upset, I can't sleep. Too much salad is bad, too. Nutritionist suggestion: blend all my vegetables. Sure, I guess this can work, but that is pretty limiting outside my home, especially if those are the main foods I'm supposed to eat. Also, is this a forever solution? It doesn't seem very sustainable.
  • Beans: if veggies bother me, the nutritionist wants to know about beans. Beans are straight-up off the table now, as I eat them and quickly appear to be food poisoned. Yes, I'm sad about it. I love beans. I love their taste, I love cooking them, I love how inexpensive they are, I love that my husband and daughter like eating them, too. Yes, I can eat them blended, at least in small amounts. Sure, I'll give it a try.
  • Fruit is delicious, but it leaves me hungry; when I eat it at restaurants, I have to be very careful, as I'm allergic to one of the preservatives put on it to keep it looking so fresh and appetizing. Yes, the nutritionist has heard of this, and wants to know, does this preservative irritate my throat? Yes, my throat, lips and tongue balloon up, and I have trouble breathing. Nutritionist suggestion: continue not to eat fruit at restaurants, try to "make the best choices I can."
  • In summary, what's my diet supposed to be? Low-fat or high-fat dairy? Lean protein with blended vegetables, but no carbs? Fruit at home, but with some low-fat protein to fill me up? What can I eat that will both make me healthier and also feel okay every single day?
I wish, every once in awhile, I could share the discussion with the nutritionist, the doctor, and the trainer in which it is suggested that I keep a food journal, with meticulous notes, even though the therapy I have sought to address potential psychological factors of my obesity has suggested that keeping a journal just like that encourages obsessive thinking, shame, and as a result, resistance to behavior change, binging, and feelings of hopelessness. If only I were a robot, and we could just download all my data in an impersonal way.

I have believed, for a long time, that my obesity has not been simply the result of a lack of disciplined self-care on my part, while at the same time, I have understood that my choices have hastened my weight-related suffering and worsened my overall health. These ideas are in conflict, and I must hold onto them, together, all the time, one not canceling the other out. Much as I wish, I can't have others feel how it is to be in this body, or attend health care visits with me as I struggle to describe my symptoms and attempts to ameliorate them, or be in my brain as I try to anticipate size-appropriate seating options everywhere I go. I cannot see the clear solution that gets me out of this situation, but I also cannot seem to get the team I need to help me figure it out, despite trying, despite love and support and access to quality medical care. I know that my solution is not simply lowering calories in and increasing calories burned—the best docs have said that this equation is only a part of the disease for awhile—but all the while, I try to do better with reducing intake and increasing activity.

It is difficult. It is sometimes overwhelming. It is so damn lonely.

I routinely seek ways to escape my situation. I laugh with friends. I exercise. I look fear in the face and go out into the world. I travel with friends and family who mitigate some of my limitations. I play with our new puppy. I try making a new recipe. I'm always in my body, though. Everywhere I go, it is there, and this year, it has felt more encumbering than ever.

For me, obesity is a prison I take everywhere with me. Even during the fun times it is there, in the sweaty feeling in the fold of my neck, or the arm rests pressing painfully into my hips. If vacations fortify our spirits, giving a necessary break to life's struggles, what I wouldn't do for just a few days reprieve from obesity—a brief vacation from being locked inside this body—so that I could feel stronger in my fight to be healthy. 

I want to be hopeful. I want to feel like, this year, this will be the time I get a handle on this, turn the boat around, and through sheer will and hard work, reverse my body's current course. I want to believe that I have that kind of power, even as I know that it takes more than just me and all the resolve and dedication in the world to cure a disease like this. I want to know that there is a set of keys waiting for me to unlock the prison doors. Though each year I feel this disease killing me a little more, make no mistake: I want to live, and I will continue to fight for my life, even as it looks as if nothing has changed.

As much of a downer as the current state of my obesity can be, there is an odd freedom to living outside the edge of normal, to knowing that we are more than our bodies, and we must deal with the struggles that come with them. While I certainly try to to look my best, with some semblance of fashion-sense, I no longer worry about my looks. I just can't. It is fruitless, and requires energy I don't have. All the shirts in the world will show that I am heavy, all the pants will need to fit both my larger stomach and my thighs, so none of them will be very trendy. All the hairstyles will still expose my double chin, so I might as well just get the one I like the best, and feel great about showing it off. The little wrinkles of vanity truly don't worry me anymore. Maybe this is just the effect of age, but even in this body—maybe especially in this body—I like getting dressed up, I like wearing bright colors, and I like not worrying about every single stitch of clothing being flattering. 

Is that a hopeful ending? Gosh, if you stayed with me this long, I can at least end on a reassuring note, right?

Here goes: Before you know it, we will all venture into the holiday season, cold weather creeping in, with baking and parties and family meals, no matter what your diet. Soon the sunlight will diminish, and my body will take a cue from the season by getting slower and more tired, but even exhausted, I will be grateful to wake up with my family surrounding me, as I hope you will be with your families, too. We will all face our struggles. I will face my obesity for another year. I will hope for more answers. I will pray for more joy, even with the restrictions that accompany it in this shell. And should any new breakthroughs come around, I will keep you posted.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Speck Yourself Out

This post is sponsored by Speck Products, who provided me with some lovely Speck cases to try out and write about here on the blog. All opinions presented here are my own, or those of my family members who have sampled the Speck cases along with me.

Do you have your new iPhone yet? Waiting until the holidays to upgrade? Something in a flashy Android model, maybe? Or are you like me, hoping to make your old phone last as long as possible, and only upgrading when something breaks on the phone that cuts open your thumb when you use it? (Yes, this has happened to me, and yes, I'd do it again if I could save some money on my technology.)

When I finally did upgrade in the spring of 2013, saving myself from constant digit injury, I purchased an iPhone along with this lovely orange Speck case:

While the decorative white floral background is now more weathered in color, the case continues to get compliments, and more importantly, my phone has not been damaged. Klutz that I can be, I have dropped the phone, thrown the phone, and stepped on the phone. My daughter has "played with" the phone, in the aggressive way that only children can call love. The phone has travelled, been shoved into tight spots, and been jostled around loosely in bags. The phone lives, even as the battery becomes less and less chargeable, and I'm grateful that the case I chose primarily for looks has been a protection powerhouse.

You can imagine my happiness, then, at being invited to a Speck happy hour during the BlogHer14 conference, at which point we could check out some of their new products. I brought home a few, and here are the reports from the peanut gallery (aka, my husband, daughter, and parents):

Last year, EJ earned an iPad Mini for doing so...much...homework. We thought it would take her all year to gather up enough points in our homegrown homework hours-to-points-to-dollars exchange, but her class's ludicrous workload of two hours a night and sometimes eight hours on the weekend made her iPad mini a stocking stuffer. (Don't worry, we've changed schools, but that's a story for another day.)

For my favorite Minecrafter and all those like her, Speck created the DuraFolio case, which I was able to snag in fuchsia, her favorite color.

While at first reluctant to take the gel case that she had grown accustomed to off of her device, as soon as she tried this, she loved it. She really likes that she can set it up in the stand position so easily to watch stampylongnose videos (again, Minecraft), and as her mom, I like that the fabric is bumpy and a little grippy, which makes her less likely to drop her device.

We also sampled an iPad mini case that was designed to hook over the back of a car headrest, so that it could be a mounted screen for videos, etc.

While we thought this would be perfect for a car trip, and tried it on a drive from Chicago to Washington, DC, it was heavier than the kiddo preferred and clunky, with the hook in the way when you weren't using it on the back of a seat. It was also hard to reach once mounted, which would probably be an advantage for use with toddlers or preschoolers, but was a nuisance to our nine-year old. As soon as we stopped at a rest stop, the kiddo searched her bag for the folio case, swapped them out, and just took to holding her device while she was using it for the remainder of our trip.

For my Dad, who along with Mom recently upgraded to their first iPhones, I brought home a CandyShell Card iPhone 5 case.

This case allows the user to make their phone into a wallet, a feature which I think would be perfect particularly when working out, attending festivals/concerts, going out at night with a tiny bag (or no bag at all), etc. My dad's review was simple: he likes the look and the sturdiness of the case, and he appreciates that he can put a few cards (2-3 fit at a time) or dollars in the slot behind. He does not like that you can see which cards are there, due to the window/cut-out at the back; putting your phone up to your ear and flashing your credit card isn't his favorite idea. His use for the slot: his health insurance cards. Retirement hack, complete.

My mom received the coolest case of them all, the CandyShell Amped iPhone 5 case.

A retired speech pathologist, Mom has already self-diagnosed the age-related hearing loss that both she and Dad are now experiencing. Knowing you can't hear doesn't help you hear, though, and I figured she'd enjoy having the sounds of her phone amplified. She agreed. Then she had hip surgery, and hasn't had time to switch out her old case for this one. Suffice it to say, her hearing isn't her main concern right now, but she is looking forward to giving this a whirl.

Finally, my hubby, Mike, swapped out the original Speck case I purchased for his phone, which he liked very much, for the CandyShell + FACEPLATE iPhone 5 case.

A few weeks prior to trying this new case out, Mike had lost the protective film over his iPhone screen, making it vulnerable to scratches. The new case, with a permanent faceplate cover, solves that problem. While he likes that feature, he did have trouble putting it on without any bubbling in the background. He also had difficulty cleaning it, so that the top corner, when the screen is dark, still shows bubbles and smudge (sounds like an English dinner, right?) He may eventually switch back to his original Speck case, once he purchases a new screen guard, but has liked the faceplate version enough not to make any moves in that direction. As a techie guy, if this case was aggravating him, he would have taken it off within days. We are now heading into month three, and it is still in action.

We are Apple folks, clearly, but Apple is only one line of products for which Speck provides cases and accessories. We feel grateful that we got to try the latest and greatest for iPhone 5 and iPad mini, and when we eventually upgrade (likely at iPhone 8), we will look to Speck again to keep our devices safe and snappy-looking.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


I'd ask where the summer has gone—"How has it flown by so quickly?" or "It feels like it just started, doesn't it?"—but I know exactly where it was spent: away from our home.

Sunday was our first day solidly back home as a family of three with no immediate plans to go anywhere in at least 6 weeks. I loved all the travel this summer, but with some unexpected trips and family commitments thrown in, August became a bit of a suitcase marathon. Once returned to our condo, I was in heaven. I puttered around the house, watched shows that were DVRed, made our portion of the ravioli that we made from scratch last week with extended family, and glowed in the "nothingness to do but be right here" of it all. I did not get out of my pajamas. I drank coffee in the morning, wine with dinner. Can you feel the relaxation?

Of course, by roughly 3:00 p.m., while my hubby was safely out of child tantrum-range at the gym, our daughter began to bristle at being a homebody. My bad. Kids need more activity, even in their relaxation, than their 40-year old moms. (Moms, remember this the next time you read an article where you are implored to take care of yourself first, so you have enough to give to the little ones: those little ones are willing to take you totally depleted if you show up and do their stuff). After some general contrariness, a teary kid explained to me that she really was sad she hadn't had enough playdates and sleepovers this summer. She needed more. "This is part of being an only-child, Mom. You can NEVER understand."

Please join me in a moment of stifled laughter.

Thank you.

I told her I'd be happy to arrange more playdates in the future, but we should probably review her summer, and evaluate if her tears were due to the letdown that comes with all the fun she has had, the inevitable end to weeks and weeks of fun activities. Here was her summer, in a nutshell:

Last day of school: Carnival during school hours (with face-painting, her favorite), then tea at the Drake hotel

Week One: KidCamp (super-fun, kid-led day camp here in Chicago)

Week Two: Girl Scout Camp (detective themed, she earned a badge and learned morse code)

End of Week Two: Family reunion with many cousins

Week Three: KidCamp

Fourth of July Weekend: Parade and picnic/party with friends from California and Wisconsin

Weeks Four-Five: ArtCamp (her absolute favorite)

End of Week Five: Birthday, including sleepover with dear friend for two nights, and an entire day + shopping spree at American Girl

Beginning of Week Six: Birthday lunch with all four grandparents, and shopping spree at favorite clothing store

Week Six-Seven: Trip to California (every night was a sleepover with kid friends, including a camp out in Yosemite and a birthday encore)

Week Eight: Back home for three days. Pool. Chicago activities. Fun.

Week Nine: Impromptu trip to DC to visit more great friends. Sleepover included. Parties with swimming. Junior ranger activities.

End of Week Nine: Homemade ravioli making with extended family in Wisconsin

Week Ten: Entire week of grandparent attention (favorite foods, favorite activities, brand new clothes/toys/tchotchkes)

End of Week Ten: Grandparents arrive for American Girl encore, purchase Girl of the Year Doll for her.

It's really sad, right? Her summer has been R-O-U-G-H. Being an only child is the worst.

Included in this list of our family's activities are a stroke scare for my mom, and surgeries for both
my mom and my dad. These didn't stop her fun, though.

Now that I am back, I have much to write about from this busy summer, included (but not limited to):

1) Parents, and why they shouldn't go to the hospital, because is is miserable
2) BlogHer '14, the fun, the things I learned, and the swag I took home
3) Traveling to places you'd like to call home, as well as places you used to call home but now call vacation
4) Condo (almost) sales
5) School: there is so much coming about school

I may also post pictures of cute puppies I am seeing online that I want to adopt, like this guy

You know, because...PUPPIES.