5 Questions With…Shauna Niequist

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Shauna-Niequist

I met Shauna Niequist entirely by complete happenstance in 2007 at a local bookstore in Grand Rapids, MI. Her first book Cold Tangerines had just come out and I spotted it leaving the bookstore after a particularly bad law school studying day. This bright orange book about celebrating the every day seemed like something I should buy and as I paid, the clerk told me that Shauna was actually doing a reading…in 5 minutes. So I sat in the back as Shauna shared what inspired Cold Tangerines while her friends and family cheered her on and I was near tears the entire time. Never have I felt such a “Me too!” feeling than when I listened to Shauna that night and over the years as I have read her books, the overwhelming feeling of connection and relatability she conveys in her writing instantly makes you feel…heard. Welcomed. Home.
In this world of picture perfect Instagram feeds and messages of “how-tos” that insinuate that you are the only person on the planet who doesn’t have it together, Shauna has created a space through her storytelling that leaves room for the shiny celebratory moments in life to co-exist with the days you are in your pajamas past noon. That a life walking in faith is worth it and possible. That a amazing dinner parties can consist of elaborate recipes or chinese takeout…and that good champagne should be popped on any night of the week because celebration, big or small, matters.
Long story short: I adore Shauna.
Without further adieu, 5 Questions With…Shauna Niequist.
1. What is your favorite thing about where you live? We are, quite literally, surrounded by family. My brother lives on our street, and all four of our kids’ grandparents are within 15 minutes. Aunts, uncles, cousins—all part of our daily life, around our table, shooting baskets in our driveway. I’m so very very thankful to live in a place where we have deep roots and relationships.
2. Here’s $50- what are you going to do with it? Straight to Whole Foods, or any gourmet grocery. Champagne or prosecco, cheese, jam, blackberries, crusty bread, maybe a bouquet of flowers—peonies or ranunculus. I don’t buy expensive jewelry or whatever, but I love to buy food!
3. What is your favorite holiday and why? Memorial Day, because it’s the beginning of summer, my favorite season. I’m crazy about flip-flops, ponytails, boat rides, ice cream for dinner, sandy feet, pink noses, strawberries, tomato sandwiches.
4. What is the best trip or vacation you have ever been on? My all-time favorite city is Paris, and the last time we were there, on the last night of our trip, Aaron and I sat on the banks of the Seine for hours, across from Notre Dame, watching people and holding hands, watching the light fade on Pont Neuf, and it’s one of my most precious memories.
5. What would you do if you knew you could not fail? Write a novel. I probably will anyway, even though I have no idea how, because the older I get, the less afraid I am of failure. :)

Cooking at Home: Friday Night Dinners

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taco salad bar

Something we have gotten away from in the last few months has been Friday dinner at home. Work stress, general busy-ness, laziness…whatever it has been, eating out all weekend has become a thing. But with Spring seemingly here and a glorious weekend ahead with nothing planned, it was time to bring Friday nights home again.

I was in Colorado last week and had the most amazing roasted tomato salsa so with that as inspiration, I decided on a taco salad bar. The term “taco” is used very lightly here as I think the only thing Mexican about this meal is the fact that I made salsa, used chili powder on the protein and sliced up avocado and cilantro. But whatever. I wanted fresh and I wanted healthy and for full disclosure, I wanted wine because goodgodthisweek.

My favorite thing about meals like this is that while there is some prep time involved, it’s every man for themselves once you put each ingredient out. My husband wasn’t forced to eat kale if he didn’t want to and I was free to load up on green goodness, bypassing the steak. Everybody wins and at the end of the meal, we both agreed we need to do this for a dinner party soon.

Roasted Tomato Salsa

3 pints cherry tomatoes

1 poblano pepper

1 red onion

4 cloves garlic

handful cilantro

salt & pepper

Arrange the tomatoes, the poblano, garlic and onion (cut in thick slices) on a large baking tray. Season with salt and pepper and place under the broiler until they start to brown. You may have to remove the pepper and garlic early as they brown faster. After everything is roasted, place in a food processor with the cilantro and pulse until it’s at the consistency you want (I like mine well mixed but just before pureed). My food processor is small so I did this in a few batches and combined in a large bowl to stir everything together at the end.

Salad Ingredients

mixed greens

lacinato kale

avocado

asparagus (blanched)

sweet potatoes (roasted with a touch of honey and pepper)

red pepper (roasted)

red onion (leftover from the salsa, roasted)

shrimp (pan seared with lime juice, cilantro and chili powder)

skirt steak (pan seared with chili powder, salt, pepper and butter)

shrimp salad

{A pile of salad-y goodness for me}

steak salad

{Steak with a side of salad for my husband}

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As for the wine, I broke into our latest shipment of Club W. This monthly wine club is a lot of fun because I get to select what bottles arrive and with the sommelier videos on the app, sometimes I try things I might pass over at the wine store or have never heard of. This bottle of Valdiguie fit the bill last night as 1) I drank it while cooking per their suggestion, 2) it was red, 3) it was wine.

Friday night dinners at home are back.

 

Gideon Akande: Men’s Health Next Top Trainer

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Something my Dad always preached to me growing up (and, truthfully, to this day) is “Strong Body, Strong Mind”- the mental and physical are beyond connected and you have to take care of one if you want to take care of the other.

This is Gideon Akande and he is my Chicago manifestation of Strong Body/Strong Mind. An instructor at both Flywheel and Shred415, he leads some of the sweatiest, most fun, most ass-kicking classes I have ever taken and he motivates from a place of drive and determination, a commitment to your goals. I mean, his arms alone are inspiring- I am constantly thinking that if I am around him enough, maybe my pipes could be that baller- but real talk, Gideon as a person and instructor is the real deal. I am constantly inspired to go harder, go faster, be stronger.

And I am not the only person to think Gideon is the best thing since sliced bread protein: he is in the running to be Men’s Health Magazine’s Next Top Trainer! While us Chicagoans are lucky to have him at our fingertips for an elite level fitness push, Gideon’s contagious energy deserves go to global so everyone can “Get Fit with Giddy”. Check out his video for a few great workout moves, vote for him here and if you have a chance to grab a class of his at Flywheel or Shred, trust me…you don’t be disappointed.

Link Love

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It’s not an April Fool’s Day joke…Wrigley will not be entirely ready for opening day but THERE’S A JUMBO TRON NOW!

Now this is the kind of networking event I can get motivated to attend.

“What if I couldn’t pull it off? What if everything up until now had been a fluke?” Soul Powered struck a chord.

A bottle of St. Germain has been sitting on our bar for awhile now…I usually don’t have open bottles of champagne hanging around (sad face) but a cucumber-cooler would be easy to swing.

loved the board game Clue as a kid and this Dinner Detective event would basically be the in-real-life, adult version of that.

Passover Funk: yes. Hoping for a video reenactment from our friends and their family at Seder this weekend. (Updated to reflect the good video)

An Ode to March and Tom Izzo

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Izzo

Who is Tom Izzo?

Two facts: I am a die-hard Michigan State fan and Tom Izzo is the best coach in the history of the world.

In conclusion: the month of March is the best. Logic defied the assumption Spartans make every year that our team will do well in the tournament (because good lord, that regular season was abysmal) but I am so glad I didn’t retire my lucky MSU socks/glitter koozie/candle/shirt/jacket/hat prematurely because on Saturday, I will put everything back on, go to the corner bar and get ready to cheer my face off during the Final Four.

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{Go Green! In Izzo We Trust! Spartans Will!}

House of Blues

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House of Blues

For living in a city that has large amounts of tourism, I don’t find myself dismissing anything as being “for tourists” very often.

Case in point: I love the architecture tour; it is chock full of information every Chicagoan should know and when don’t you want to be on a boat on the river? The Bean: I will be the first taking selfies in this gem of reflection plunked in the middle of our fair city. Also in this category? The House of Blues.

Originally started in Boston by James Belushi, Aerosmith and Dan Akroyd (among others), this concert venue downtown has become a staple for music in Chicago. It was the first place I saw a concert with my now-husband (a Journey cover band, obviously) and I went back last night with girlfriends to see Super Diamond, a Neil Diamond cover band (despite my experiences, House of Blues hosts non-cover band bands too…allegedly). After some sushi and cocktails at Sunda, we headed to the HOB, got wrist-banded up and danced along to songs we knew and songs we didn’t. Tucked in Marina City, the venue is small enough to be personal but big enough to make you feel like you’re really at a legit concert. Super Diamond was great; the lead singer summed it up when he said “We love Neil Diamond and we want YOU to love Neil Diamond”. While I am not a Neil connoisseur by any means, live music and a dance party surround by people who know every word, well, that is a recipe for a good night.

They also serve alcohol. Helpful.

All of those things combined means that the House of Blues delivered last night and I would have been remiss to have overlooked it in lieu of an underground, out of the way music venue the cool kids are going to these days. Because real talk, “Sweet Caroline” always feels so, so good when you belt it out at the top of your lungs and that likely removes me from the cool kids music club anyways.

Fine.by.me.

Super Diamond

 

Chatbooks

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I really love Instagram. I love taking photos, I love posting little stories along with them, I love seeing photos popping up on my feed of what others are sharing and getting to see what matters to people through these images. When I scroll through what I have posted, it feels like a photo diary where I get to remember snippets of moments. And I have it with me all the time because it’s on my phone.

But remember back in the day (omg, the early 2000s!) when you would actually print out photos and –gasp– put them in an album? And you could flip through them with your hands and show other people? Yeah. There’s something to that too.

So, Chatbooks. It’s this app that takes your Instagram feed and turns it into little 60 page books. You can choose if you want your captions to show up or locations but that’s pretty much all the work involved. Name your series of Chatbooks, pay the $6 per book, and poof, you have sweet little photo albums that just show up at your door.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetMine arrived yesterday and I love them! The photo quality is actually really good (something I didn’t count on being only 6 bucks each) and it is so cool to have these photos I love in my hands. I think they will be cool to set on the coffee table for people to thumb through and to just have around. It just shows such a fun moment-in-time look at the last few years.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetIf you want to try it out, you can get your first book free with this promo code: GY94C7UW

{This is not a sponsored post, I just really like these little books!}

Berry Chia Pudding

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Berry Chia Pudding

 

Let’s talk about chia. They’re seeds, kinda slimy and you once slathered them on a terra cotta little statue of a cat or Bart Simpson to make a chia pet. I get it. They’re weird.

They are also really good for you. Healthy omega-3 fats, fiber, calcium, protein, manganese, all sorts of things to make you feel super virtuous. I have been adding chia seeds to my oatmeal for a few years now and inspired by this chia parfait that looked great, I decided to see what else I could do with these little guys.

Chia Pudding: 2 cups cashew milk*, 1/2 cup chia seeds, 2 tablespoon unsweetened coconut shreds, 1 tablespoon maple syrup. Combine in bowl and stir vigorously. Cover and store in refrigerator for an hour.

Berry Topping: 1 cup strawberries, 1 cup frozen blueberries, 1 banana, 1/2 cup cashew milk*. Combine in a blender (I don’t have one so I used a bowl and a submersion blender).

*almond milk would work well too.

Chia Pudding

Chia Berry Pudding

The finished product: delicious and creamy, not at all reminiscent of a chia pet. With how easy it was to pull together, it would make a great staple to have on hand for when a healthy snack is needed mid-day. Easy, healthy and delicious: nothing could sum up my mid-week food needs more.