Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Louisville- A Vegetarian's Dream

Being the chub foodie  that I am-  I am always super excited to discover real, legitimate vegetarian fare.  Living in a cosmopolitan city like Chicago, one would think vegetarian restaurants and or meals would be abundant.  We're the third largest city- surely taking that into consideration there have got to me an infinite number of vegetarians in this town.  I'm quite certain there are-  however, we are in the land of the stockyards -  the place where animals come to die and be butchered (think- The Jungle)  this is a true meat and potatoes town - unless you want pizza.    My husband and I joke about it all the time because we go to a restaurant and say "do you have anything vegetarian"  and they usually give me 2 options 1. a "Veggie Wrap" or 2. A salad. (oh, and in fairness, the occasional veggie burger).

On a brief side note-  I don't know if any other vegetarian ever experiences this when eating with meat eaters-  but with my family and friends, vegetarian has become synonymous with "illiterate"-  as they all constantly have the urge to point out anything they see that might even hint at a vegetarian meal as they peruse the menu.  Typically the convo goes like this:

Person 1:  Oh, did you see that they have a Veggie Wrap on the menu

Me:  Yes, I saw thank you

Person 2:  Hey,  there's a VEGGIE WRAP (insert enthusiastic voice of the person trying to up sell the vegetarian options on the menu)

Me :  Yes, thank you

Person 3:  Oh, not only do they have a (again with the wonderment voice) veggie wrap... but they -also- have a salad! (continued voice of wonderment)

How badly do I want to walk into a restaurant and actually have legitimate options?  Enter the town of Louisville.  Being that Kentucky is south of the Mason Dixon line - even if it's just slightly south-  In years previous, my assumption had been that it would be meat, meat, meat, more meat, and vegetables coated in bacon.  To my pleasant surprise-  Louisville is quite the place for delicious food.  It is truly a vegetarian chubs   foodie's  dream.

Our first night in Louisville, we ate dinner at this wonderful boutique restaurant called "Bourbon's Bistro" Not only do they have the most delicious (dangerously so) bourbon infused girly drinks ( I had the Bourbon Ball Martini -  ok, in the interest of full disclosure- I had THREE of them)  but I was served for my appetizer-  goat cheese and garlic (so yumalicious I can't even tell you) and dinner was a Black Bean and Mushroom Croquette covered in a sherry and butternut squash coulis.  I almost embarrassed myself by licking the remainder of the sauce off the plate, but I restrained myself (maybe).

Here's a pic of us at the restaurant-  keep in mind we got there (and took this picture) right when they opened (we had a 6pm sharp reservation)  the place started hopping around 6:30 and was packed with a line by 7

Day 2- Friday. We stop for breakfast at my personal favorite breakfast place in all of Louisville - Lynn's Paradise Cafe  .  If you watch the Food Network, you have seen her on Throwdown with Bobby Flay as well as Man Vs Food. My reason for loving it?  A TON, literally a TON of vegetarian friendly options-  you may say "its breakfast of course its vegetarian friendly-  but this is the only place I know of that offers vegetarian biscuits of gravy.  And, they are Yum-O- Licious!  Oh yeah and their quiche's  are delish as well.  

If you do go-  be sure to stop and take some time perusing her shop.  She has a lot of really fun (and funny) gifts -  plus fun hats and sunglasses (though, I'd say she probably frowns on people [like me] trying on her hats just for gag pictures
Oh  and group shots outside are always fun as well.  This year, I decided to be a dancing fruit.  In years previous  my husband and I play the spoon and fork in these pictures.  My husband decided to be the fork and that's my grandpa playing the spoon :)

Friday night we went out for burgers at Blue Grass Brewing Company.  Now I know earlier I said that veggie burgers are kind of passe when it comes to real vegetarian fare- but when you're going to a bar and just having a late night snack- having a veggie burger offered is always a thumbs up.  Now, considering whenever I go out for dinner with friends and family-  veggie burgers are typically all that is offered, so I consider myself  a veggie burger expert.

The burger at Blue Grass is To.Die.For.   They're handmade (always a plus) and I swear I have never had another veggie burger nearly as delicious as this one.  I try to get the recipe every time I go down- but the lady who makes them is never actually IN the restaurant when I'm there.    If you do go-  ask them to put it on a pretzel bun instead of serving it on the traditional bun - and my personal preference is Swiss cheese  not the pepper jack it is traditionally served with.  But, trust me, try it.

The only downside to my vegetarian foodie tour was Churchill Downs.  The luncheon planned for us, did not take vegetarians into consideration-  so I hate some bread,  a salad,  and a brownie.   Of course, just as we were leaving we discovered that the vegetarian requests changed from years previous and that the chef in fact -could- have made me something to eat.  Ah well, you live and learn.

Saturday night, we made a stop at my first love (restaurant wise) in Louisville. Ramsi's Cafe on the World   - or just Ramsi's.  :)

This is the acme of vegetarian/vegan fare in Louisville.  You could close your eyes and point to practically anything on the menu and it is either a legitimate vegetarian or vegan dish- or can be made that way.  My favorite's there:
Brie Bernadette-  I'm not even kidding, I have dreams about it.  It's brie - rolled in Almonds and Pecans, lightly fried and drizzled with honey -  it is one of those "lick the plate" dishes- Im not even kidding.  For dinner, I usually get the Egyptian Kitchen which is calleKusheri -  which is essentially a lentil dish- and it is so good.  I passed on dessert though they do have some deliciously decadent ones 

All in all, Louisville =  super fantastic vegetarian fare.  If you happen through Louisville or decide because of the amazing restaurants I visited you are now inspired to visit- stop through the ones on my list.  I promise you, you won't be disappointed :)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Millie Meets Emmie

Since I'm a day behind on posting (and, well- since I didn't post at all this past weekend)  I'm going to post out of order, because I KNOW you're all dying to know about meeting Emily more so than my vegetarian's foodie tour of Louisville (which- was delicious by the way-  will post on that tomorrow).

Saturday was the day that Emily and I got together.  Can we just rewind a bit and start with Saturday morning?  Okay-  so, first- the reason that I was in Louisville to begin with is because I'm a Kentucky Colonel-  and we had our annual Day At the Races fundraiser.  So, since Emily (you know her as Skinny Emmie) lives in Lexington and I was in Louisville I asked her if she wanted to come join the party- to which she said yes (yay!).

I've been having mini fashion crisis's for like Oh, Don't know a month maybe-  over what to wear.  If you follow Skinny Emmie- you know she is *quite* the fashionista.  Seriously.  I thought I could rock some awesome ensembles, but she certainly has an eye for fashion as well.  I finally settled on an outfit (because my original dress that I ordered from Old Navy came ripped grr)  and grabbed some panty hose last minute at the avenue on Wednesday night before I left-  and I never opened them or checked them.

So let's go back to Saturday morning- where we were before I tangent-ed (is that a word? meh, whatever)

Every colonel attending the event was either at our hotel or at the over flow hotel down the street.  Anticipating another year of long waits for Room Service or long lines at the restaurant Mr. Millie went to get bfast while I ran around my hotel room like a crazed women trying to do my hair, makeup and just in general get ready.

:brief tangent:

Why is it that as women, even though we wake up an hour before our husbands, they still manage to jump in and out of a shower, and get dressed and ready- and are finished in like twenty minutes tops-  then they repeatedly look at their watch like you are purposely taking a millenium to get ready yourself. -  so frustrating.

Anyhow-  hair and makeup finally done- I whip out said pantyhose and discover- they were made for a midget.  They were certainly NOT my size pantyhose.  Great- just great- I thought- now what am I going to do.  Thankfully I had packed 2 outfits- one in case it was cold and one in case it was warm (it was warm)  so I had leggings intended to be worn under my "cold" outfit which I used under my skirt.  It probably looked a but weird but whatevs.

We get to the racetrack -  settle in- and Emily arrives (YAY).  My first thought "Gosh she is TALL" -  I'm 5 foot 9  so I'm certainly not short- and she is taller than me.  I'm *quite* certain she is 6 foot.
But other than that-  it was like we have known each other forever.  I was so afraid there would be a lot of random bouts of uncomfortable silence where we just kind of stared at each other- but since I think I'm incapable of silence anyway- and my mouth moves about a million miles a minute- we didn't have to worry about that.

And-  guess WHAT?  Emily has decided to come to Illinois in June for the SHEROX triathlon :raises roof:

So, I'm putting you ALL on notice.  You have six months-  why don't you train and join us?  It will be fun with a capital F.

Here are some shots from the afternoon:

This is us trackside (well, above the track)-  but outside. Photo credit to Papa Millie

Here's one of us at our table-  Emily and her Husband, Me, my husband's friend Scott and my Husband in the upper left corner with the matchy matchy blue tie :)

And, one of just me, by myself- because I was channeling Sasha Fierce -  I think I looked pretty good! :)  

So-  details to follow-  BUT

Save the Date!
Sunday June 10th, 2012
Naperville, IL
( link is to the 2011 info-  2012 Info Not Posted yet!) 

Be there- or be SQUARE!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

#LaneBryant Is Smoking Crack- Seriously.

As you all know, I'm always trying to find the latest places to shop- that are affordable and fashionable.  Plus size girls have a VERY (and I do stress the word very) limited selection of places that we can shop.  Unfortunately, if your social circle includes other plus size girls you have more than likely had multiple run ins with the same outfits or wearing the same shirt in a different color/style/etc.  Most of us -heavily- depend on Lane Bryant.  For a long time- even with other stores like the Avenue, or Fashion Bug, or Catherine's Plus Size, - or heck- even the local department stores, continually missed the mark on what they thought bigger girls wanted to look like (overgrown lumpy potato sacks)-  so Lane Bryant has been the mecca.

However, Lane Bryant has extraordinarily steep competition these days.  Even though I'm not 100% thrilled with the "we want your money but keep your fat ass out of our stores" online only shopping experience from Old Navy-  at least a girl can cater to her every fashion whim on the cheap.  And previous to Fashion Bug being acquired by the same people that own Lane Bryant- their buy one get one for a dollar sales were a dream.  

Before you turn your nose up at me thinking about heaven forbid buying clothes on the cheap-  please remember that plus size women have long been considered the second class citizen of the shopping world.  Most of the clothing that is offered to us- are poly mixes or cottons.  God forbid someone provide us with clothes that have some style to them.  And while the skinny people of the world can waltz from store to store (by the thousands of stores) at the mall picking and choosing their "style" from multiple locations throughout the mall-  we have always had to squeeze ourselves (pun intended) into the cookie cutter ideal of what fashion buyers decided what we should look like. 

Refocus back to Lane Bryant.  Lane Bryant has always been a staple for providing many styles, options, and fabrics, usually  at a fairly decent price.  Now, I say usually, because even previous to this post, I found that paying $80 for a pair of cookie cutter jeans - that were just of the stores label carrying no real "weight" to the name-  more than ridiculous-  but for a long stretch they were the only ones that offered jeans in the latest trends- so I was happy to pass over my Lane Bryant platinum card and pay the price to fit in.  They offered great sales and opportunities to really clean up if you got in at the right time (and previously- if you were a platinum member you got an extra 20% off on Thursdays I believe it was)

However, Lane Bryant, I have noticed a peculiar phenomena happening lately.  Your prices went from- fair ($29.99 for the average article of clothing at your store)  to slightly annoying ($34.99-$44.99) for the typical article of clothing - to down right ridiculous.  $69.99 for a SWEATER?  ARE YOU HIGH?  For some piece of crap poly blend  that will shrink and barely cover my belly after one wash- Michal Kors himself better come with it, and follow me around telling me I look fabulous.

Your CRAP-  and yes, your clothes really are cheaply made crap-  is made in China, where you are paying some woman three dollars an hour to mass produce your clothing-  and then you are gonna expect me to pay SEVENTY DOLLARS for ONE ITEM OF CLOTHING!?!?!?  

Ive been into multiple locations in the past weeks, because unfortunately, I requested gift cards to your store from everyone for my recent birthday,  so I could purchase some new clothes for a couple of trips I am taking.  Every store I go into, not only do your salespeople cleave onto every hapless victim that walks into your store- (and seriously they don't let go- they're now worse than the salespeople at  Dress Barn and you really can't sink much lower than Dress Barn) but it's really laughable that you even sell gift cards in $25 denominations because I can't even buy a necklace with a $25 gift card.

Case in point here are the items I considered buying these past two weeks:

Embellished Print Band Bottom Top

This is a super cute T shirt.  But that's the point. Its a TSHIRT.  There's next to no material in a t-shirt.  This shirt-  at any other store would be $19.99  tops-  At Lane Bryant, their cotton poly blends are apparently the acme of poly blends, because this very shirt is currently for sale for-  are you ready?  FORTY FOUR NINETY FIVE.  One shirt.  

I picked up this cardigan-  again super cute, thought I could wear it both to work and to an event I have coming up.  I nearly CHOKED when I saw the price tag- for a CARDIGAN.

Rhinestone and Flower Accent Cardigan

 Had it been say, the price of the TShirt even ($44.95) I probably would have bought it.  But, how expensive was this top?  SIXTY FOUR NINETY FIVE.  Are.You.Kidding.Me?

Now, I am a Paisley girl.  Vera Bradley, is my soul mate.  Seriously.  So when I saw this Cardigan, and another one similar to it, I was in heaven.  I was ready to buy them both.  In previous years, cardigans like this, would be $29.99  or $34.99 or maybe $39.99  at most-  usually with a buy one get one half off sale, which made it sting a bit less.  This year, what is Lane Bryant charging for this sweater?  FIFTY NINE NINETY NINE.  (but, in consideration of full disclosure- there is a BOGO on cardigans right now  but even with a BOGO this is ridiculous)

Now one could say, oh people pay that much for clothing all the time its not just the plus size girls- yada yada yada.  But that is my point.  If I was at Nordstrom, and I was purchasing one of their staple designers- say a Ralph Lauren or an Anne Klein-  I would expect to pay that much money-  and I would know that the clothes are fairly decent quality and will last more than say three washings.   This also brings me to my second point.

So disgusted by Lane Bryant's sheer audacity at thinking they deserve to charge this much money for mediocre clothing -  I decided to pay a visit to Macy's.

Now, since Macy's murdered my beloved Marshall Fields- we haven't exactly been on speaking terms.  Well, we've spoken a few times-  said some cordial "hellos"  and maybe I -may- have purchased a Martha Stewart Bedroom set from them.....  and, maybe a couch......   and a coach bag or two....  and some jewelery-  BUT for the most part, we have certainly not had anywhere near the love affair that Field's and I once shared.

I went to Macy's though-  and bought not one, not two, not three but FOUR items, totaling $89.68.  One sweater dress ($31 and 20% off)  a super cute shirt to wear to my event - $13 (I know! I was stoked), a cardigan ($35) and a shirt that isn't exactly similar to the blue one but close enough ($19.99 at 30% off)

As I discussed my shock and disgust with Lane Bryant to the sales girl at Macy's  she also informed me that Macy's is starting to offer clothing going up to 28 (they used to be a solely to 24 store) and also mentioned that Lane Bryant apparently has forgotten that they have lots and LOTS of competition these days.  After my stop into Macy's  I decided to also check out The Avenue, and discovered that they as well have VERY decently priced clothing (though certainly not as completely fashion forward as Lane Bryant I'll give them that)  but if you have the time to mill around its worth the shop.

Now, in "defense" and I use the word almost with an air of sarcasm  of Lane Bryant-  they -did- (until Sunday)  have a 40% off the entire store "sale"  but sorry,  when you are charging seventy dollars for a cardigan, even the $42 with the discount is laughable.

Sadly Lane Bryant, you have become arrogantly too big for your britches (again, pun intended).  You know that women desperate for even the smallest taste for hip and fashionable attire, flock to your store in droves, plunk down their platinum like its nobody's business, and worship at the alter of your brand.  

Be loyal to the people who made you as big as you are.  There are people by the thousands right now protesting greed and consumerism.  Treat your customers with respect-  every other store in the country is spinning upside walking tightropes and juggling flames right now to get people's business.  Perhaps, because you know you have the market cornered, you don't feel the need to do the same.  Unfortunately though, you aren't the stallion in the pony show anymore.  And, until you remember that it was me, my dollars, and my loyalty that made you where you are-  and you show some appreciation-  I will not be buying from your store again.  I am more than insulted that you expect me to pay more for a sweater than what you would pay one of your employee's for a days worth of work.  

Let me say this again.  If an employee at your store, working eight hours getting paid minimum wage or just above it- can not even buy an article of clothing in your store on a days wages,  where do you feel entitled to charge that much money for your clothing.

You do not sell designer clothes.  
You do not even provide a brand that is a high enough quality to deserve such a high price.
You sell disposable clothes.  One season, maybe two.

Increase your quality

Lower your price. 

Remember who made you.  

Perhaps then, you wouldn't have to rely so heavily on those conversion percentages, and your sales people could go back to helping rather than shadowing, creeping, and down right annoying every customer that walks through the door.

Monday, November 7, 2011

I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again- You're Never Gonna Keep Me Down

It's been a long, long time.  I know.  No excuses.  Just so.flipping.busy.
I just can't figure out my bearings- and find up again.  Only a few more weeks.  I will survive.
I guess, in all honesty  I just haven't felt much like blogging.  I just keep getting kicked around in one of my classes-  and I try, and try, and TRY and bang my head against the wall trying-  and I can't muster anything higher than a C.  Yep, a C.  I can't even tell you the last time I received a C in anything.  It's an exhausting, never ending battle of putting my all in, killing myself trying to figure out what it is about me or my writing that isn't working, having people read, re-read, and re-read again things that I write, thinking "ok, this is the one.. THIS will be my B (or lest I even hope perhaps an A) just to get kicked in the gut again.  I hate feeling like everything I do is not good enough.  This term is most definitely been a huge hit to my self-esteem.  "Everyone else" -ie the few people that I actually speak to in my class-  have all managed to digest their critiques and excel (well, if you consider low B's excelling, which at this point- we do)... and yet  I moved from a C- to just your average run of the mill C.  So, that's essentially why Ive been a bit MIA.  This little old blog, and my triathlons, and my physical goals are the few things right now that are in the "I feel good about these" category.  Unfortunately, I can't even bask in the glory of those these days because I'm so mired down with never ending assignments that late October into now have turned into "exercise...what's that?" days.  Only a few more weeks, and then it's balls to the wall.  That is, if I make it out with my sanity.  I keep telling my friends, you are going to have to come look for me up on the mental ward- I'll be the one chewing my hair and talking to my bunny slippers.

Oh and to add insult to injury-  Ive been sick.   I swear i have the worst luck.  I am rarely ever sick.  Its a very rare occurrence that I even use my sick days for illnesses throughout the year-  but, if I'm getting ready to take a vaca or have something important coming up- you betcha I'm Rosemary's baby, except with projectile phlegm. This weekend I'm headed down to Kentucky for a charity event-  AND  I get to meet the famous Skinny Emmie of  ( I know, you're jealous ;-)  )  and as if the whole knock to the self esteem- lazy butt only getting wider, thing wasn't enough to make me -really- excited about our get together-  I now get to be Typhoid Mary on top of it, sneezing and wheezing all over the place.  Great first impression.  *fingers crossed* the antibiotics Im now on work their magic by Saturday.

My Big Girl Panties challenge with Meredith has consisted of- Meredith chugging along like a rock star... and me, buying a LOT of hours to keep up.  That will change after December 7th-  hopefully I can make up some of these lost hours.  If not- I guess I'll be ponying up some big dough come the beginning of the year I'll be ponying up some major cash.  -heavy sigh-

Anyhow.. I can't wait to update you guys on my fun day with Skinny Emmie  -  its gonna be capital F fun, even if my face looks like a puffy raspberry. One of these days I'll actually get caught up on all the stuff I need to do by the end of the term-  and hopefully I make it out with at least a smidgen of my self-esteem and my sanity.  Until then, Chumbawumba  is my new mantra "I get knocked down, and I get up again- you're never gonna keep me down"