My first “book club”

Three years ago, there was a Big Read in town. The book was Fahrenheit 451 and available at the library. I rode my bike to the library after work on a warm summer day and picked up the last copy they had at my local branch. I was excited for all of the activities they had involving the book. I started reading the book and I couldn’t get through it. I tried more than once to finish it and never managed to get far enough. So I never went to any of the activities because I had no clue what happened in the book.

I had read in the paper back in January that there would be another Big Read but this time the book was Station Eleven. The book sounded interesting so my husband graciously volunteered to go pick up the book at our local branch. They had to go get the last copy on the bookmobile. We must have great timing to have received the last copies at the library two Big Reads in a row.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure I would like the book. A post-apocalyptic novel about life after a flu pandemic wiped out most of the world’s population didn’t really seem up my alley. But, I read the book in a week and a half and I couldn’t put it down.

On Valentine’s Day my husband and I went to a talk on flu epidemics and the media. As someone who loves science it was right up my alley and I learned quite a few things.

The following evening I attended the opening talk with the author, Emily St. John Mandel. I struck up a conversation with two women behind me before it began. It was so interesting to hear the author’s reasoning for why certain things are in the book.

There was a book signing event after the talk, which is always cool!

There are tons of other activities left with the Big Read. I’m unsure if I’ll be able to attend anything else, but I’m happy that I was able to read the book and meet the author. If you ever have the opportunity to be a part of an NEA Big Read, do it! If I had to sum it up in one phrase, it’s one giant community “book club”!

My First Stained Glass Experience

Before Christmas, my coworker asked the ladies at work if we wanted to do a stained glass class. She was the only one who had done it but thought we’d really enjoy the experience. So wrapped up for Christmas s was an invite to the class that wouldn’t occur until February.

The week before the class my coworker told us to plan what we wanted to make with only three pieces of glass. So my mind got to thinking. Could I make a mustache? Maybe in lime green! Then I thought well what if I need something thicker in the middle so it wouldn’t break? How about a donut? How would I make it look like a donut instead of a circle with a hole in the middle? A cupcake came to mind, or a popsicle. I printed a template so I was ready to go.

The night before our class on Super Bowl Sunday we got a dumping of snow and the snow continued into the morning but we all made it!

We practiced cutting glass with different cutters, had to draw our template, after some explanation of what you can and cannot do. Straight cuts are weak, there goes my popsicle idea. Tiny curves are a challenge. So long mustache. I decided I’d make the cupcake. Once I had my pattern drawn, and a drawer I am not, I had to create a copy. And cut out the second pattern so the shape could be traced on the glass.

Then on to find the perfect glass for my cupcake. I found a cool blue and a brown like a cupcake liner but something was missing. No lime green! Someone found a green and it was the PERFECT sized piece that I needed. It felt like it was coming together. Cutting glass is not easy when you’re trying to create an actual object. After I cut my three pieces I was mortified that they didn’t even touch! The instructor looked at it and said they looked great. I thought she was losing her mind! Only because I didn’t understand the next step. We grounded our pieces down on a grinder that has water in the bottom and a sponge to wet the grinder. I don’t know how else to describe it. With a couple tweaks by the instructor I had three pieces that fit together. If I could just remember how they went. That’s where the second pattern came into play.

We had to put the copper foil around the edges and smooth it out. We placed them together and started the soldering.

From paper template to finished product it was such a fun time! There were only a few moments when I had to hold my breath! I had a great time and look forward to doing it again some day!

“I’m feeling very OLYMPIC today!”

With the 2018 Winter Olympic Games just beginning, the Opening Ceremony isn’t until tomorrow but there were already some events that started today, I felt it necessary to share my love of the Olympics with all of you. For those that know me, even just a bit, you know that I have a love for the Olympics that’s pretty intense. You may be wondering how did this 28-year-old come to love them so much?

Here’s where the story begins…

It’s the Summer of 1996, I had just turned 7 years old. My parents told us to pack our bags, or maybe they packed for us, because we were going on vacation. They claimed they didn’t know our destination, we were just going to get in the car and drive and see where we ended up. I find this hard to believe as an adult, but that’s what they told us. So the next day we hopped in the Suburban and started driving. We drove until dark and we stopped at a hotel, I believe in Kentucky. My mom and sisters got out to “see if they had a room for us” and I decided to stay in the car and park it with my dad. We pulled up next to a red Jeep Grand Cherokee. I made a comment how my Uncle had the same type vehicle and it had Illinois plates. Of course my dad explained that there are lots of vehicles that are the same and it was just a coincidence. As we walked towards the entrance there was a man and young girl standing in the window at the end of an upper floor of the hotel. I tried to tell my dad I thought it was them but he told me they were people who looked similar or something to that effect. The two figures as we came to find out were that of my uncle and cousin.WHAT A COINCIDENCE! After discovering that we were at the same hotel, it was decided that my older sister would stay in their room.

The next morning we all went to breakfast and hopped back in the car. My mom hands us a movie, Babe Pig in the City, and asks if we want to know where we are going. I’m sure we pierced their ears with our little girl screeches, but they told us we were heading to Atlanta to stay with Nana and Papa and go to the Olympics! I can close my eyes 22 years later and put myself back in the car with the warm sun shining and that VHS.

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THEAMONTEMURRO FAMILY

There were a lot of behind the scenes details we didn’t know at the time, but it was a somewhat spur of the moment decision to go to the Olympics. My mom was on the phone purchasing tickets the night of the opening ceremony as we were downstairs watching in awe. My grandparents lived in a suburb of Atlanta at the time so we had a place to stay. It was a no brainer! For those who remember, there was a bombing at the Centennial Olympic Park. This happened the night we were at the hotel. There was a phone conversation between the adults and my grandparents the next morning on whether or not we would still be coming. The decision was we weren’t going to let that stop us! I’m SO thankful we still went!!!!

There are moments of our Olympic adventure that I remember vividly.

  • Waiting in line for security checks, which I’m sure are much less than they are now.
  • Eating lunch at Wendy’s one day and cooling off with some ‘scream.
  • Taking the shuttles to and from the games. There is a funny home video of one of these trips.
  • Seeing the giant red torch (yes I just googled a picture because I remembered it being red, but it’s been 22 years!)
  • Watching field hockey and wondering what the heck it was any way! Using binoculars to see the rest of our family across the stadium.
  • Watching a baseball game. I believe Japan was playing.
  • Hearing other languages as people walked past us
  • Watching the track and field events on TV with Nana and Papa as our parents watched in person.
  • Playing in the fountains at Centennial Olympic Park
  • Finding our brick in the park. If you ever get down there go look for it.
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    Visiting the brick in 2007 during a HS orchestra field trip.

I suppose someone could poo-poo this and say it’s just a bunch of sporting events, but until you experience it it’s just not the same. I’d say this was my first glimpse into the world. At 7 I’m not sure if you really get the whole other countries and people living there yet.

I suppose you could say that the torch lighting was my own torch lighting for my Olympics love. Whether of not my parents know it, this was one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had, and there have been a lot in my lifetime. I’m sure it was stressful with three small children and all of those people, but no one got lost, maybe just lost in the moment.

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We got to dress up in the Olympic wind breakers and a gold medal around our necks!

The US Speed Skating Long Track Trials were held at the Petit Center in Milwaukee this past January. Luckily we had another day off before we went back to work and were able to experience a new sport in person and an Olympic Trial.

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling very OLYMPIC today! Go for Gold, Team USA!!!!

2017, what a year!

To say 2017 was an exciting year would be a major understatement.

We started off the year purchasing our first home together

My husband graduated with his Master’s degree.

We sold my husband’s first home.

My husband decided to go back to school to earn his teaching certification.

We took our first cross country (well 1/2 country) road trip and Canada together.

We had the excitement of my younger sister’s engagement. I had my graduation from college with my master’s degree Then I had two more months before I was officially finished!

We had two foot surgeries and recoveries, one currently.

We celebrated our first year of marriage running around Chicago cheering on our sister Elisabeth in the marathon. The day of her first marathon was when my husband first gave me his phone number, so we enjoyed his company this time in person.

We hosted our first holiday, my favorite, THANKSGIVING.

We had many laughs, we’ve had to tough it out and work hard to get the end results, we’ve had disappointment and pain, we’ve had much happiness and celebration.

I am ready to turn the page and discover what the year has in store. A fresh start, despite writing 2017 til about March (it happens every year!).

Here’s to 2018, let’s laugh louder, love deeper, speak kinder, walk slower, and live happier.

2018, you’re getting my best self! How about you?

Sibling Christmas

In October, my older sister started planning our sibling trip to Chicago. We knew it would be a bit dicey with my husband in a boot and a week and a half after surgery but it’s always fun when we all hang out so we forged ahead with our plans. We ate, drank and were merry. Enjoy some pictures from our weekend!

Dinner at Quartino

Brunch at Corridor Brewery & Provisions

White Christmas at the Music Box Theater complete with a sing a long

Happy Birthday Papa!

About a month ago my Nana was cleaning out some things in a closet when she found this Italian cookbook. She started paging through it and found a menu written and taped inside. The handwriting was that of my Papa. He had studied the cookbook created a menu to eventually have. No one knows when he wrote it, but this gave my Nana the idea of having a dinner in his honor on his birthday.

My Papa died in 2008 very suddenly. It was devastating to us all. My grandparents had just returned to Wisconsin a year earlier after having lived in Georgia for many decades. I was a freshman in college and it was a challenge for me being so far away. We were pals, number 2s as he’d call us as we were both middle children. As a kid I enjoyed their visits to visit us there were ear nibbles, Dairy Queen runs, donut runs, and so many memories. I enjoyed my visits to Georgia, mostly because it was fun with the two Anthony’s and two Emily’s. My dad is named after his dad and I’m named after my dad’s mom. That only really became complicated once they moved back to Wisconsin but we all thankfully have our own middle names!!

Birthdays are always celebrated in a big way in our family and the same went for Papa last evening, complete with singing happy birthday, with FaceTiming our family out east to join in! The food was delicious and the company was even greater.

I found this photo from their first Christmas back in Wisconsin, and it just made me smile. Wishing you were here, but I really think you knocked that coat rack over after dinner last night 😉.

A weekend to be thankful for

Those that know me know that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday! Don’t get me wrong Christmas is great and all, but there’s way too much stress with finding gifts for others, hoping they like it, worrying about spending too much money, etc. that kind of takes the “magic” out of it. Thanksgiving is about family, friends, thankfulness, and food! While there’s lots of fuss over cooking food, turkey poundage and thawing times, and oven logistics, there’s little else to worry about.

This was our first Thanksgiving in our home and we have been looking forward to hosting since last year when we knew we would have a home for next year’s celebration.

Parties have always my mom’s thing. She’s just awesome at throwing and hosting. I’ve had lots of years of watching and practicing and this was my final exam! I started preparing, planning and purchasing in October because it’s never too early. Thanks to Google Docs planning was easy with my other contributors. The week leading up to Thanksgiving was full of preparations and Wednesday was a full day of cooking, baking and mulling (more on that later), and a whole lot of excitement!

Thanksgiving always begins with attending mass. It’s one of my two favorite masses in the year- it’s not an “obligation.” People come who want to come and the congregation brings non-perishable food and monetary donations for the St. Vincent de Paul in town. It’s amazing watching everyone bring their bags up at offertory.

Preparations began after church and we were in full swing prep mode. Jeremiah helped me spatchcock the turkey. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you should look it up and give it a try. It’s our second year in a row doing it and it turned out delicious! Not to mention we cooked a 22.96# turkey in three hours flat. I’ll never cook a turkey any other way. You carve the thing before it goes on the table anyways so who cares if it doesn’t look like a turkey.

I had to use some innovation at times! We kept my sister, Erin, out of the hot zone of raw turkey so she could assist in other ways. I forgot to preheat the oven- I’ve never been good at remembering to do that, so I had to use some crazy moves to do so.

We served appetizers downstairs in our basement and were able to prepare the rest in the kitchen. I made a cranberry cosmo punch where the cranberry juice had to be mulled ahead of time. It was a strong and tasty drink. Thankfully, I was short two cups of vodka and added two more cups of cranberry juice or else I would have had guests sleeping in my living room over night.

No need to bore you with the details of our Thanksgiving as they are much the same as yours but we had a wonderful meal with family and soon to be family.

Friday we gathered with my mom’s side of the family to celebrate the November birthdays. My grandpa played his accordion for the first time in 50 years. He said he didn’t remember anything but he did remember some. The cousins gathered at Erin’s after and watched some gems from family videos.

Saturday was our annual ravioli making. We’ve been making them for more than a decade and then they are frozen until Christmas Day. It’s always a fun but exhausting day! The evening meal is always homemade pasta and sauce. So we get to taste part of the fruits of our labor.

After dinner we had our third annual beer tasting. The best part are the comments we make about the beers. The person who rates each beer the highest then gets to bring the rest home.

It was a successful weekend to say the least. I’m still exhausted and I slept past 6:30am, which is a rarity.

And in case you are wondering, I received at A+ on my party planning final exam. Now to start planning my next party…

FNCE 2017

So I may have mentioned this before, but I’m a Registered Dietitian and five years ago in my previous job I was able to attend the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE, as we call it) in Philadelphia and had a blast and was completely overwhelmed as I was a “first timer” and knew I wanted to go again.

I found out about a year ago that FNCE was taking place in Chicago, which was pretty perfect as it’s so close and I knew I had to go! I was the solo dietitian from my job attending but knew that I would be seeing some of my former coworkers and friend. I’m an eager beaver and love to learn! I printed out the schedule two weeks in advance to see what sessions I wanted to attend. Thankfully they had an app that I could use to keep track of what rooms and sessions to go to. Five years ago there was a giant book I had to lug around. I think at these types of conferences you have to go in with an open mind and realize that not every session is going to be as interesting as you had hoped for. I think when you attend conferences it’s important to try and pick sessions pertinent to your job but also be a bit selfish and pick sessions that help you grow as a professional and individual alike. I mean, let’s face it, if you don’t grow as an individual how does that help you professionally?

Over the course of four days, I attended 15.75 hours of sessions, 2 hours at a symposium on portion sizes, 5 hours at general sessions (more on those in a minute) and 3.5 hours at the Expo, where I worked my arm muscles from carrying my “haul” of goodies.

I enjoyed many sessions but some of my favorites included:

  • The opening session where Dr. Sanjay Gupta gave a great presentation on media and its influence on healthcare. If you were asked who you would invite to dinner, he’d be on my list. He had such a conversational tone, easy to listen to and provided such great information. I was so engrossed with what he was saying my notes for that session is blank. He told a story about operating on Jesus in the desert when he was on assignment in Iraq and the surgeons wanted his Neurosurgery expertise.
  • I attended two sessions that Second City presented. One was on creating inclusive environments and one on improv for effective and adaptive communication. Best three hours of conference.
  • Fear boot camp was also a great session. We worked through the stages of fear in order to do what you’re afraid of. Nope, not gonna get a dog, but it was a great exercise and fun speaker.

Because FNCE was in Chicago I was able to be my sister’s roomie for three nights!

I was excited to see and spend time with my friend and former coworker Allison over the past four days. We haven’t seen each other in a while so it was fun catching up. Of course when in the city, you have to have delicious food. Elisabeth took me to Quartino and we had the best orecchiette EVER! Allison joined us for dinner at Little Goat Diner. My love for Stephanie Izard runs deep and have been to her restaurant Girl and the Goat.

Here’s some of my pictures from the expo!

This was the hottest exhibit in the expo. The line was ALWAYS so long. Sadly, I didn’t get to partake.

I’m wet from three days of rain, my feet are sore and my eyelids are heavy! Here’s to public transportation to get me home!

525,600 minutes (of marriage)

No one can predict the future but I knew that the life with Jeremiah would be bright. It’s safe to say that this past year, our first year of marriage, was nothing short of spectacular. We bought our first home together, sold Jeremiah’s condo, survived the stress of BOTH of us graduating with our Masters degrees, survived a cross country road trip together and many other things.

We began our weekend of celebrating Friday evening with tickets to see the 20th Anniversary tour of RENT. Paper is after all the first anniversary gift- but the wave of technology took some of the fun- I “put” them in my Apple Wallet. RENT is special for me and I’ve seen it twice now. It was my first time seeing a show on Broadway, had second row seats with my cousin, Grace, and I just fell in love with it. I knew Jeremiah would like it too, so off we went. Fifth row seats was the best I could do, and yes, you can still see spit from the actors mouths that close up! I laughed, cried and got all the feels. Jeremiah enjoyed the mooing the most!!!

Saturday evening we enjoyed dinner at Ashlings on the Lough. Exactly one year before we had our rehearsal dinner there. As many know, it’s the restaurant where our story really began three years ago. We celebrate all our special moments there. It just kind of feels like our home.

We arrived home to have some anniversary cake. There was no freezer burned cake waiting for us, Jeremiah ordered us a fresh “wedding” cake from Gooseberries in Burlington where our wedding cake came from. Our cake was so good it didn’t make it to November last year!

Today is our anniversary. It began with an early wake up call! It’s Chicago Marathon day! Some may know that prior to picking our wedding date my sister, Elisabeth, told me I could pick any date besides October 8, as she was planning to run the Chicago Marathon the next day. Well luck would have it that it was the only available Saturday in October. So it was fitting that we were there to cheer her on today to make up for her missing it last year.

Elisabeth ran a PR in the warm weather and I couldn’t be happier for her. I was there for her first half marathon and was happy to be there today for her. She said to Jeremiah that she was glad he was there in person this time, instead of a man on my phone texting me the entire day three years ago.

Looking forward to the next 525,600 minutes of life, love and marriage with my hunky!

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