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.