After a terribly unproductive weekend, I took today and tomorrow off as “sick” days – really because I need to put together the final project for my C&I class so that I can enjoy Pitchfork and Chicago this weekend without (too much) guilt.

In case you’re curious, my final project involves writing a curriculum for the workshops taught by my office – incorporating the existing offerings as well as workshops targeting growth areas identified by a few of our faculty members. There are two awesome things about this project: it’s something I can directly apply back to my work, and it ties in nicely with the final project for one of my other classes, in which I will be completely reworking one of the workshops. The overwhelming evidence we’ve been getting back from our workshops is that folks just aren’t learning the things we’re trying to teach – instead, they’re learning that they can just go to the Help Desk and someone there will spend hours going over a project with them. We’ve kicked around a bunch of ideas, but haven’t actually gone forward with many improvements. I’m hoping that this project will jump-start this process!

Right now, though, I have an iced coffee and blurry eyes to contend with before I can get anything done.

Good things: Saturday edition

So far this weekend:
– I took a two hour nap.
– SB and I met Keem for dinner at Farren’s, which has redeemed itself in my estimation after a few lackluster visits. I had tacos.
– SB and I went to Borders for a while. I bought a book and a magazine, and grudgingly decided to subscribe to Blueprint, the latest in the Martha Stewart suite of lifestyle magazines. It’s really fabulous, guys.
– Trip to the farmers’ market yields lodi apples (for grandma’s applesauce), rhubarb (for a crumble and/or jam), and tiny radishes. Add in a Mexican brioche and a little pastry snack from Mirabelle, and it makes for a lovely shopping trip.
– Yoga with SB. The class was slower than I really enjoy, but it was stretchy, tough in parts, and relaxing.
– Leftover spring rolls from the 4th = mmmmm.
– Right now, possibly as I type this, Sonya and Jason are gettin’ hitched!

What We’ve Been Up To: A Short List

Item #1: Earlier in the week I helped my best friend load the moving truck that is going to convey MOST of her family’s worldly possessions to the East Coast, where she starts a job in about ten days. It was bittersweet – I love helping people move and dispatching friends for big adventures, but it will be sad to not have her around, and I will miss her greatly.

Item #2: In the next ten days, SB will hit both coasts as he interviews for Real Jobs. He is stressed out and anxious as he’s prepping for travel and presentations while at the same time working on a class and his CAS project. I really wish I could be more helpful but (1) I can’t and (2) I have my own pile of work and applications to worry about. The only significant bite on my hunt has come in the form of extensive reference-checking – no new interviews, and a rejection letter from the one interview I did have in May.

Item #3: Last week I worked with my gyne instructor friends for probably the last time, at least en masse. The next major teaching session isn’t until January, and by hook or by crook we should be out of here by then. Working with this program was such a blessing, and I am deeply grateful for this experience for a variety of reasons.

mid-term review

Good god, the year is half over.

  1. Finish Old Chicago World Beer Tour.
    – 4 beers to go, which means I’ll finish the next time I’m home. Wall of Foam, here I come!
  2. Rate my entire mp3 collection in iTunes
    – I’m at around 40% despite adding a LOT of new music recently.
  3. Visit Boston.
    Check!
  4. Visit New York City.
    Check!
  5. Have a successful garden.
    – Check! though we haven’t had any vegetables yet – just lots and lots of wonderful herbs.
  6. Lose 10 pounds.
    – Check! kind of. I lost about 10-12 pounds but have regained a few of them, so after yesterday’s cookout piggery, I’m attacking this one with renewed focus.
  7. Maintain three months’ worth of bills in savings.
    – Nooo but I’m going to start a new budget with the next pay cycle, and I think that will help.
  8. Watch every Bond movie.
    – Falling down on the job on this one. Resolution tracking here.
  9. Get my car fixed.
    – Phil the Explorer has racked up well over a grand in repairs and diagnostic testing so far this year. The biggest bill of them all remains to be paid – he apparently needs a new computer. Personally, I’d rather spend the money on a new computer for ME, but Phil needs this so that we can sell him, so I’ll be ponying up in the next month or two.
  10. Be more like Leslie.
    – I don’t know if this is something that can be measured, but I’m trying.
  11. See two movies in the theatres each month.
    – I’ve seen 10 movies total, so I’m behind schedule by about two months. There are a bunch of things out right now that I want to see, though, so hopefully Keem and I can beat the heat in the theatres over the next couple of months.

Had a fun cookout yesterday. I made zucchini carpaccio salad and my mom’s warm potato salad. SB made eclair cake, which we spent all day sneakily nibbling on (and still have a large amount left over). Richard brought brains! We skipped the fireworks and were in bed by 10:30 after a long day of homework, cooking, and cook-out-ing. Fabulous.

bad Karma

Pure Protein Karma Double Chocolate snack bar

I was very excited about the Karma bars – a sub-brand of Pure Protein. They include primarily organic ingredients, and I was hoping that since there’s more sugar, they’d avoid the mushiness that the regular Pure Protein bars sometimes fall prey to. I was right in that regard. I initially thought that the bar had melted a bit because it was a little lumpy and weird – but NO! To my great delight, those lumps were chocolate chips. REAL chocolate chips. Off to a great start here!

The bar on the packaging looked very much like a Hershey bar – little squares of chocolate – but the bar in the package was nothing like it. The chocolate chips were sprinkled on top of Kashi-like crispy bits that tasted kind of like styrofoam, all on top of some fudgy brownie-like stuff. The top and the bottom parts were great, but I’m not so much into styrofoam. Sorry, Karma. You’ve let me down. Everything looked so promising – chocolate chips! 13 g protein! – but in the end, a disappointment.

The stats: 200 calories/7 g fat/23 g carbs/14 g sugar/13 g protein

Bar-Buying Binge

I think I have a problem
Over the last few weeks, I’ve indulged in a bar-buying binge. I knew I wanted to carry on with this exploration of all things bars, so whenever we’ve gone to Strawberry Fields or Meijer or any other snack-selling establishment, I’ve spent a few moments of wonder in front of the bar selection, trying to remember the things I’ve tried and the things I don’t have at home. This has resulted in a giant pile of bars distributed between my kitchen, my bag, and the desk drawer at work.

Clif Black Cherry Almond bar

I grabbed this one for a mid-morning snack the other day after a wholly delicious but unsatisfying pastry breakfast. Despite my great love of Clif bars, this is one I hadn’t tried before – I think I’m mainly just suspicious of fruit bars for no good reason. I neglected to make notes about this bar, which probably means I should eat it again, but also means it was fairly unremarkable. Fruity, not exceptionally nutty – just generally solid Clif fare. I probably won’t go out of my way to buy again – but if I’m at the gas station and it’s that or Cheetos for breakfast, sure, I’ll eat it.

OK, I lied. I’d totally go for the Cheetos. No offense, Clif.

The stats: 250 calories/5 g fat/44 g carbs/20 g sugar/10 g protein

Clif Mojo Honey Roasted Peanut

The Clif Mojo line is an interesting development. The bars are all right around 180-200 calories and are more trail-mix-y than your traditional Clif fare. The packaging reads: “Folks tell us it’s pretty darn good. CLIF Moo is all about getting out there, trying new things, combining new flavors and textures, and respecting the planet by using as many organic ingredients as possible.” Now, I’m all about ‘getting out there’, ‘trying new things’, and ‘combining new flavors and textures’, not to mention ‘respecting the planet’ and ‘using as many organic ingredients as possible’ – but I don’t really see how a ‘honey roasted peanut’ bar does any of those things. I mean, ‘honey roasted’ and ‘peanut’ is a pretty standard combination of flavors. It hardly represents ‘new things’, though the sticky sweetness of the bar is a new texture for good ol’ reliable nuts. This bar was pretty damned tasty, though. It could be improved by putting it on top of peanut butter nougat and covering it in caramel and chocolate, but then I think you’d have a Snickers bar, and that’s not really what we’re going for here.

The stats: 200 calories/10 g fat/20 g carbs/9 g sugar/10 g protein

Clif Mojo Fruit Nut Crunch

Honestly, despite what I said about the Black Cherry Almond, this was my first real Clif let-down. It was not as fruity as I’d hoped, and was more nutty than I expected. It’s kind of like a trail mix bar without the M&Ms. It’s fine, but the other Mojos are better.

The stats: 190 calories/8 g fat/23 g carbs/11 g sugar/10 g protein

Balance “Bare” – Sweet & Salty Chocolate Almond (natural flavor)

I was initially suspicious of Balance after a few fairly gross samples. I think I had initially gone for the low-carb, low-calorie snack bars – y’know, the ones around 100 calories that are meant to tide you over until your next meal replacement bar. The first bites of those bars were heavenly – followed by total grossness, but at that point I was so close to the end that I couldn’t just spit it out. I imagine it’s somewhat like the experience of eating peanut butter if you’re a dog – delicious, yet fairly strange and aggravating. The Sweet & Salty Chocolate Almond “bare” proved me wrong – at least for the time being. It was crunchy, tasty, not at all bar-y, with no weird sugar alcohol mushiness. The bar was crispy without being overly crispy, with nuts and melty delicious chocolate underneath. You’ve won me over for now, Balance.

The stats: 210 calories/9 g fat/23 g carbs/12 g sugar/13 g protein