Valentine by default

IMG_7132

There they were.

Under the sink.

A whole box of them minding their own business. But I wasn’t.

I had gone out with her and mutual friends the night before, not planning to have a slumber party. There was only one issue, that night before was February 13th. We had two beers at her place before going to the bar and having a few more. One thing led to another and before the clock struck one she was passed out on her couch as her dog scowled at me.

Not having much experience with comatose women, I wasn’t sure what to do. Was she faking it? Did she legitimately pass out from 4 beers in a night? Was her dog interested in taking things to the next level?

So, I did what anyone would. I texted a few friends asking for advice. The think tank was split between my options.

I could have left and gone about my blissfully lonely life. That would have meant leaving her in an unlocked apartment in the city.

Or, I could have stayed the night. I hadn’t packed my jammies or sleepover essentials like contact solution. This is the plight of the myopic. Plus, I’m notoriously bad at sleeping in other people’s homes.

Should I stay or should I go?

With her slumped in the middle of the couch, there wasn’t enough room for us both to pass out there. That left only one other place to sleep. Her bed. I can’t say I’ve slept in many women’s beds, but when I did, they weren’t in them.

I put a blanket over her and turned off the tv before retiring to her bedroom. The drinks started their assault on my digestive system. I may not like sleeping at people’s places, but my bowels sure fancy foreign toilets. At this point, I was sitting on her toilet questioning my life choices. I reached for toilet paper and discovered there were four squares left, one of which was coated in glue. This is when I reached over to the sink vanity in search of another roll. Had I left, I wouldn’t have seen what was under the sink.

On the outside of the large pink box was a picture and the text “First Response Pregnancy Test.” Realizing I couldn’t wipe my ass with those, I found a roll of TP.

My paranoid mind started to wander. Why would you need the economy box? The next 10 minutes were excruciating. What had I gotten myself into? How did I end up here?

Then, I looked down at the stick and saw that I was not pregnant.

With the ebullience of a man finding out he’s not the father on Maury, I got into her bed with her dog and fell asleep.

I woke up early the next morning and ran to the grocery. Selfishly, I was hungry and she didn’t have food. I grabbed a pack of bagels and two roses. One for her and one for her unborn. Returning to her apartment, she had woken up and changed into pajamas. I gave her the flowers, we had a bagel and I wished her a happy Valentine’s Day before I went on my way.

A Year of Adventures and Doing Stuff

Rodin on traveling abroad.

December 31, and the week leading up to it, has always been of interest to me. The culmination of a calendar year causes me, and seemingly every other blogger, to reflect on the past year’s events, what happened, what didn’t, where’d they go, what did they cook/eat, who did they date. The arbitrary nature of time demarcators has led me to question the significance of today versus yesterday or any other day. As a society (and world) we mark today as the end of the year and tomorrow the day to join a gym, just as soon as the room stops spinning and we find our pants.

In stark opposition to the mindfulness movement, I have largely been focused on the parts bookending “now.” Where am I today versus a year ago? Where will I be a year from now? In my 29 years I can safely assert that I am not clairvoyant, nor a historian. I often struggle with remembering where I parked my car or what I just ate. I have a vague notion of where I will be tomorrow and maybe a week from now, but beyond that…

The basis for mindfulness is that you can’t change the past, nor predict the future, so why worry about either? If you have any friends who post those inspirational quotes or read any profiles on a dating site this year, I’m sure you’ve read some variation on that axiom, likely attributed to Buddha.

While I try to become more “now,” I did want to enumerate what happened in 2014, mostly so I have some reference point when I fry my brain from rapidly vacillating between gadgets and apps.

Travel

Oh, the places you’ll go…

Where didn’t I go this year? I have dreamed about going to Europe for many a New Year’s reflection day. This year finally was the year. After dating Leann for about two months, I shared that I wanted to spend my birthday somewhere other than Chicago. She asked where and I said Italy and Paris. She followed up with inquiring if I was going solo or with friends. Leann shared that if no one else would go, she would be interested.

“How committed are you? If you had to give a percentage…”

“75-80,” Leann answered.

A few weeks later I asked “Are you sure?” no less than five times. And after that our first trip was booked. My quest for a passport stamp would be realized. Oddly, I don’t think I’ve looked at those stamps since the adventure. Even more peculiar was that someone was willing to go overseas with me for a prolonged period of time.

Stops along the way: Rome, Florence, Venice, Paris, Fajardo, Old San Juan.

Each inspiring and beautiful in their own way. Florence was one of the most breathtaking places I have been, possibly due to the steeply sloped hills. Traveling was one of the main themes for my writing this year. While it certainly can be expensive, seeing other cities and cultures opens the mind. Plus, I don’t think many people want to read about my daily commute. Traveling is my escape to newness. Experiencing a city for the first time is magical. There is no feeling like my first time in Paris. Walking around Paris that premiere nuit. Wandering in the damp and chilly early evening. Emerging from the Metro and seeing I.M. Pei’s Louvre Pyramid. Turning to Leann with mouth agape. Then walking some more. Wandering. Then, our feet hit the damp pavement a little faster. There it was. Illuminated in all its glory.

Le Tour Eiffel.

Le Tour

I have never experienced anything like that day. That’s the magic of travel.

I hope to return to some of these places in the future, but I’m not focusing on the future. MINDFULNESS!

Dating

More than traveling this year, there was a larger theme. Adventures with Leann. By some luck I happened to find someone who is eager to try new things, a patient listener (we all know my stories are seldom succinct) and someone who says yes. She gives unconditionally. She has unknowingly reminded me of the innocence of young love. Those times before becoming jaded or disenchanted with the dating “process.” There is little doubt that I am crazy. Somehow that doesn’t bother her. What started as a conversation about ice cream while sipping margaritas has developed into a year full of happy times getting to know her, her family and her friends. What adventures will we get into in 2015? Follow #lookatusdoingstuff to find out.

Foodstuffs

This was the year I became a professional chef. Thanks to Chicago Food Bloggers and Mealsharing.com, I hosted my first dinner party at a swanky rooftop in Chicago’s South Loop. This was also the year of bacon. Leann and I entered a cooking competition through The Takedowns. To supply us for the showdown, they gave us with bacon. Lots of it. Enough to clog all your arteries. And those of your friends.

Also thanks to Yelp and Chicago Food Bloggers, I got to eat some delectable dishes that inspired my cooking. I had the chance to meet restaurant owners and some other bloggers in the process.

Dancing

IMG_2217 IMG_2222

2014 was also the year I became a professional dancer. No, not that kind. Thanks to Nicolle Wood, I got a bit closer to learning that devil dance known as balboa. The first few weeks were rough because I had basic knowledge of the basic step. Through her patience and generosity with her time, I was able to learn hangman, crabs, scoots and the routine in time for our performance outside Harold Washington Library. Hoping to take on lindyhop in 2015.

Working

Another year at the same place, but there were lots of shuffles. The company was acquired by another company and the office moved from the ‘burbs to downtown. That has necessitated several shifts in commuting and lifestyle. The company continues to grow and my team is growing exponentially. I have had the opportunity to recruit and hire some very talented people.

So now, it’s off to another party. Some close friends are gathering for homemade pizza and reflecting on the year that has been full of -ING verbs. Thanks for following this year and I hope to share more great adventures from around the world in 2015!

Pizza for the Procrastinator | Recipe & Story

world cup, fifa, lunch, salad, wrap, pizza

20140622-223649-81409999.jpg

I like to believe that I’m unique, but there’s one thing I trust I share with most people: I procrastinate when it comes to food.

Most of my free time is spent watching cooking shows, reading recipes and cooking. I also nap more than a newborn. Planning meals is not listed in that rundown. I improvise in the kitchen and oftentimes it works out well. But certain food needs advanced thought, especially anything involving a dough.

If you stalk me or are just vigilant about reading my semi-occasional posts (I appreciate all my readers), you may recall that time I tried making pizza a few weeks ago. The toppings were a bit off and the pre-made dough needed salt. While sitting on the couch watching the World Cup, I found a blog post for tw0-ingredient pizza dough that didn’t require yeast or time to rest/rise/rest.

For the dough: 1 cup Greek yogurt and 1 – 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour.

I didn’t have self-rising flour, so you can add 1 teaspoon of baking powder.

BOOM! You are now one step closer to your own show on the DIY Network.

The story before the pizza:

My lady friend and I attended the Summer Lovin’ fundraiser for Northwestern Memorial Hospital. I had gone a few times in the past to sample the finest food the Windy City has to offer and the finest singles Chicago Magazine selects. I’m still waiting for the email or phone call, editors of Chicago Mag. This year was the first I went where I wasn’t single.

Singles events are like the World Cup. Take the corner kick. Everyone crowds the net waiting for the perfect opportunity to head the ball into the net. Every time someone passes by, you hope they stop or that you can engage them in some repartee. Or maybe you run around looking for the right opportunity.

But here’s my pearl of wisdom from dating the majority of women in the metropolitan area: free kicks are rare. You have to make your own opportunities, and I’ve found they don’t happen at singles events.

No one wants to go to a singles event solo. So they rally the army for a night out. Instead of having one-on-one interactions, you have the choice of 1-on-5, or, if you have some confident friends, 2-on-5. Oftentimes when you look around you’ll see one guy talking to two or three women. That takes confidence. Or drunkenness. Either way, you have to make the move and find a group that doesn’t look like they are discussing how to cure cancer.

The night and scotch reminded me of all the time and events I went to trying to meet an adventurous gal. As soon as the security guards started ushering the pretty people toward the exit, everyone suddenly was in a meaningful conversation. It’s like the referees had just added bonus time to the match.

After briefly checking out the after party and a short stroll around downtown, we headed back toward the ‘burbs.

20140622-223650-81410344.jpg

Saturday (aka PIZZA DAY)

The sun was out and all was right with the world. My lady friend and I went for a walk in a forest preserve. She didn’t kill me and leave me for dead. So there’s that.

After wandering around and not seeing the pretty parts of the trail, we eventually migrated to another walking path. This time by a river. We spotted four couples taking wedding photos. Apparently everyone wants to get married on the longest day of the year.

Ominous clouds crept in and we made it back to the car just before the downpour. We loaded up on extra foodstuffs at Trader Joe’s for the pizza and detoured around closed streets before firing up the oven for Pizza Night: Round 2.

Toppings:

  • Sauteed red onion and mushrooms
  • Kalamata olives
  • Salami
  • Shredded cheddar

Notes: The dough is incredibly sticky. The flavor is decent, it needs a teaspoon of salt. Next time we will try 1:1.5 cups ratio. The dough may not have been fully cooked in the center, so make sure you roll it out to an even, thin layer. But we nailed the toppings.

You know what they say about the third time? Stay tuned for Pizza Night: Round 3.

20140622-223649-81409649.jpg

It’s Not Delivery, It’s Pizza Date Night

Last summer I intended to make pizza from scratch. I’d looked up a few recipes. Watched America’s Test Kitchen. Read more recipes about grilling pizza. But I never got around to trying it out. Many know my devotion to burritos, but I also love pizza. If asked to choose between which food I could eat for the remainder of my life–until succumbing to high cholesterol and morbid obesity–I’d be torn to choose.

Pizza date night is by no means an original idea, but it still counts as an idea. If you’re looking for something fun to do with a lady friend or gentlemen suitor, I suggest a pizza party. While it won’t rival the parties of our youth that included germ-filled plastic ball pits and potentially puking before the ghost story portion of the sleepover, it will have booze. If you play your cards right you could still yammie before it’s time to turn out the lights. The only difference is your mom may not come to get you this time.

The upside to making pizza is it’s relatively easy.

The hierarchy of pizzas is (most complex to easiest):

Completely homemade

Semi-homemade (I’m coming for you Sandra Lee)

Take and bake

Frozen

Delivery

I opted for semi-homemade. Trader Joe’s had everything we needed for a pizza party. They have pre-made dough, pasta/pizza sauce, cheese, organic and non-organic veggies, meats, meat substitutes. No matter what dietary restrictions your date has, you can accommodate their nom nom needs with one store visit. We went for a straightforward, traditional pizza pie. We got two crusts: whole wheat and herb. Then loaded up on veggies and arugula. Don’t forget to pick up some cheese. We bought fresh mozzarella.

You’ll have to roll out the dough, which is relatively easy. Then it’s an assembly job. Bust out that Slap Chop you bought off an infomercial and get at it. Crust/sauce/veggies/cheese. While the pizzas baked, we tossed up a salad with the extra veggies and made a balsamic salad dressing. 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. So, 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. Shake it in a Tupperware then put on the salad.

Get crazy with your toppings. Whoever came up with bacon and pineapple clearly was an outside-the-pizza-box thinker.

Let me know your favorite pizza combinations in the comments.

What to Wear to an Orgy

old school gang bang

An excerpt from my dating memoirs.

“BRING BOOZE” is what her text message said.

After replying with a reminder of how to phrase a question and the effectiveness of “please,” she half-assedly acquiesced with “BRING BOOZE NOW, PLEASE.” Who doesn’t love a woman who know what she wants and clearly communicates it?

I’d been trying to meet this girl for a while. She was the niece of a singer I really admire and she was pretty. As is always the case, she was incredibly busy. She was in the process of moving. By some miracle she never asked me to help her move, likely because she heard how strong I was from Beatrice and Eunice at aqua-robics.

We had arranged to meet at yoga before I got that demonstrative text. Late that Monday afternoon, it had begun to snow, the type of snow that turns a 20 minute commute into a 45 minute commute and tries your will to live.

There’s a moment when you look down and discover every part of your body is glistening. In all my years on this earth, I can safely say that I have never had sweat emanate from the top of my knees.

I had a use-it-or-lose it situation with my vacation time at the end of the year and decided to do some things that I don’t prioritize while working. Yoga is a great stress reliever and flexibility booster. Plus, I’m often one of two guys in a class. Should any of those women need someone to clean their pool or cook them delicious meals on a semi-nightly basis…

I changed into my gym clothes and entered Studio 2. I was greeted with a warm bitch slap to the face. I rolled out my mat and started to sweat profusely, not in anticipation of meeting her, but because I had wrongly entered one of Dante’s circles of hot yoga hell. It was more than warm. It was more than just humid. It was sultry. I rolled out my mat and started to stretch. So we are all clear, when I say stretch, I mean I flailed my arms around gingerly and reminded myself just how far my toes are. When I practiced regularly I could get the heels of my palms on the ground. Now, I’m like a little kid desperately wiggling to reach the candy on the shelf. I looked into one of the the many fun house mirrors and saw that most of my forehead was moist. I apologize to the ladies reading this post. I know how you feel about “moist.”

“How am I sweating and I haven’t really exerted myself in any capacity? This doesn’t bode well.” That’s right. I had already begun talking to myself. I cracked the seal on one of two water bottles I brought to class. I toweled off before we started our practice. I’m not entirely sure if calling this class a “practice” is appropriate. At no point in my life do I want this degree of perspiration to be acceptable.

We started class with some cat/cow poses before some sun salutations: forward fold, forward bend, plank, lunge, warrior, chaturanga.

“I’ve done these before. This isn’t so bad,” I thought. This would be one of the last moments I could form coherent thoughts.

The instructor, who was a great motivator, picked up the pace and intensity of the class. The torture session incorporated free weights to the session. So, a warrior pose would include a bicep curl, shoulder press, or tricep extension. At first I did the poses without any weights, then I grabbed the dumbbells for a few reps.

After one of the series, she asked the class if she should pump up the heat. The masochists and sadists loudly shouted “YES!” Could no one see I was wasting away on my blue mat that was quickly turning into a Slip ‘N Slide?

It was at this moment that I discovered I was standing directly under an air duct connected to hell’s furnace.

“And let’s bump up the humidity!” she exclaimed from the thermostat.

I swear on all things holy…Lord, I’ll do whatever you ask of me. Or any god, saint or deity. Can anyone hear me over the bumping Top 40 jams?

I made it about 45 minutes before visions of the sweet, flexible baby Jesus doing downward dog and happy baby started popping into my head. Then I had to sit down for a spell. It was at this moment that I observed that every inch of my body was soaked. I looked in the mirror and wasn’t really sure who was looking back at me.

The last minutes of class, and potentially my life, were burpees and squats before stretches.

While laying in savasana waiting for my heart to find its way back into my chest, I parted ways with baby Jesus the showoff. The instructor came around with cool, lemon-scented rags. I’ve never valued anything so much in my life.

Eventually I peeled myself off of what once was a yoga mat and gathered my things to exit. In the locker room, I observed that my sleeveless, navy gym shirt transformed from a Rorschach of sweat to one continuous, soaked rag of all impurities I’ve ever ingested. I rang it out, got in the shower and dry sobbed. I left all my fluids on the mat.

In my life, I have treated Dante’s Circles of Hell as a checklist, reserving the secret 10th circle for myself. I learned that night that there’s an 11th for hot yoga.

On my way out they asked how I liked it. I shared that it was quite warm. “Oh, that wasn’t even the hot class. It was only 103.”

I checked my phone after class and read a text that my date wasn’t going to make it. I called her and she invited me to her friend’s apartment. This was already the night of bad decisions, why stop at hell yoga? I informed her I needed a shower and requested her friend’s address.

After showering I got the “BRING BOOZE” demand. I was famished after sweating for 60 minutes, so I headed to the grocery and grabbed a frozen pizza. Then I was standing in the liquor section. Luckily I was able to flag down one of the workers.

“What type of alcohol should I bring to an orgy?” I asked.

“How many people?” the staffer asked.

I vacillated between a regular bottle of wine and the alcoholic 1.5 liter variety. No one wants to be sober at an orgy, so I put the big one in my basket to join my frozen pizza, green pepper and romaine lettuce. The only things missing from my basket were a kama sutra book and massage oils.

Arriving at my destination, a large apartment complex, I called my orgy mates to find out which one they were in.

Lest I misread any of the context clues, my date greeted me in pajama pants and a tshirt. “Had I known this was a pajama party…” I said. Once in her friend’s apartment I met her friend/coworker, sporting Batman pajama pants and a tshirt. And here I was wearing a long-sleeve shirt with buttons and jeans. Way overdressed for the orgy. While waiting for the pizza to cook, I opened the wine and sat with the ladies at the dinner table.

Quickly I learned that my date’s friend had too much to drink at their company holiday party, ended up going home with her boss and sleeping in the same bed with him. She asserted that was all that happened. She also didn’t want any wine. She did, however, want the green pepper, which she ate like Mr. Peepers on SNL.

She spent the entire evening texting her boss who wanted something more than a one-night slumber party. If his night was anything like mine was turning out, I’m not sure I’d sign up for a second round. She asked for my advice, which I liken to a combination of Dr. Drew and Steve Harvey. I told her to tell him she needed time to decide what she wanted to do and to put down the phone. Problems are never solved over text message.

After dinner I moved the therapy session to where it belonged: the couch. “I slept with my boss and regret it” girl reposed to the large bean bag sack with her phone and texted the night away. My “date” and I sat on the couch, turned on the TV and fired up Netflix.

Bachelor Tip: You know a date is going well when your date picks a rape episode of Law & Order: SVU. It means one of two things: she’s slyly suggesting something or, more likely, she’d like you to go home.

After realizing that was the entirety of what I’d get for the evening, I did what anyone would do. I got their insurance information for billing, took my lettuce and left.