Reunited (And it feels so good)

That’s my I.D. badge, Dear Readers, proudly bearing my class picture.  (Wince.)

The year was 1967, and although I was having a clearly a bad hair day, my four years at New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois were the greatest.

I was handed that badge two Saturday nights ago on the twelfth floor at the Doubletree Hotel in Skokie, Illinois.  That’s where our fiftieth reunion was being held and I wasn’t entirely sure if I should still clip it on.

When I first got the invitation earlier this year, I had had my doubts.

A lot had changed in my life since my last appearance at the twenty-fifth reunion.  Back then, I was a Winnetka housewife, a mother, a columnist, a generous philanthropist and hard worker for many Chicago charities.

All that had gone with the divorce wind.  I wasn’t real sure how the 2017 version of Ellen Ross would play.

But high school had been a magical time for me.  And more importantly, New Trier had given me everything.

I had loved my teachers, my friends, my classes.  And the school had given me an identity of which I was- and am- proud.  As a dopey teenager, it had been a privilege to be part of something truly special.

There is no doubt in my mind as I type this.  New Trier had shaped the course of my life.

And of course, I wanted to reconnect with my old- no make that former- classmates.  Some I still see, of course.  But others I hadn’t seen in over twenty-five years.

And the subset I was most anxious to revisit were my Avoca Class of  ’63 kids.  Avoca was/is a small school- eighty three boys and girls had been in my graduating class- and I had gone all the way from first to eighth grade with most of them.

But eighty-three freshmen got lost in a class of twelve hundred and I hadn’t seen most of these people since they were twelve.  What would they be like now?  Would I recognize them? Would they know who I was?

Curiosity may have killed the cat but it got me to overcome my second thoughts and shell out the $125 to put my name on the guest list.

Once that check was in the mail, the die was cast and the Rubicon was crossed. (N.B. Mr. Thomson. Latin teacher ne plus ultra and professore d’italiano magnifico.)

Author’s Note:  I’ve already apple-polished and written a love screed to my favorite teachers.  If you want to read (or reread ) it here it is. Click here.

But as Saturday, September sixteenth drew near, my original trepidation came back.

After all, I wasn’t married, my kids had moved away and Kelly Ripa still had my dream job. I hadn’t written Heartburn or directed Something’s Got To Give, either.

I had nothing to show for the last fifty years.

But it felt lousy to chicken out and pull a no-show.  Besides, my former next-door neighbor had graciously agreed to pick me up at the train station and I didn’t want to stand her up.

Ellen was waiting right on time with her old friend Janice already riding shotgun. And as we walked in to the reception, I felt my pulse quicken with…I don’t know nerves, anxiety, excitement…

And then I spotted Cathy and it was 1963 all over again.  All the memories came flooding back and I was awash in laughter- and a few tears- for the rest of the night.

Old training-wheels beaux, former jumprope and jacks rivals, girls I had worshipped from afar swirled around me in a wonderful whirlpool.  People and things I hadn’t thought about in fifty years all came rushing towards me with a clarity that somehow defied the years.

There was Bob and Jeff and Ernie and Cathy and Vickie and beloved Barbara and Diane and Butch and Rodney and Stew…

We laughed and reminisced.

And we mourned our fallen classmates.  I hadn’t realized how many of us had died.  Living in Colorado for seventeen years had left me way out of the loop.

Too many kids in our little class were gone.  And that’s how I’ll always think about them- as twelve year old kids with their whole lives in front of them.  Scott and Jimmy and Bob and Charles…

Sad.

My buddy Fred drove me home.  We left kind of on the early side before the music and the dancing started.

Besides, I was ready to go.  I had seen everybody that I wanted to see.  It had been a blast and now it was time to let my inner teenager go.

Ave atque vale, Class of 1967.

It was a gas, gas gas.

With love from Ellen R.

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Posted in New Trier Class of '67 Reunion, New Trier High School, Nostalgia, pop culture, Winnetka | 4 Comments

Condolence Note

This is Buster Roffe. He belonged to my brother Kenny and my sister-in-law Mary Lu.

Or rather I should say, they belonged to him.

They were his love slaves, body and soul.

And he deserved it.

Buster passed away on September 6 at the ripe old age of thirteen.  (That’s good innings for an Old English Sheepdog.  They usually don’t make it that long.)

And his passing left a hole in their hearts- and the hearts of everyone who ever had the privilege of patting him.

You might think I’m exaggerating but Buster was a gent.

A real dog-about-town and a loving soul.

I know whereof I speak.  I dog-sat him on many occasions and he didn’t have a mean bone in his furry Panda body.

As I would walk him around the neighborhood, I could see how he was a shining example of canine good will.  Whiny little kids, surly doormen, camera-wielding foreign tourists all would melt and ooh and aah at the sight of him.

He accepted their adulation- and dog cookies- with good humor and grace.  He was steadfastly kind and patient with his flock of admirers.

And he had tons of them.

There was something about his handsome head, roly poly gait and beautiful gray and white coat that made him seem like a big stuffed toy.

In all the years I knew him, I never saw him be anything less than an ambassador for his breed.

This may seem sentimental or silly to those of you non-dog lovers who don’t get what all the fuss is about when a pet passes away.

But trust me.  I’ve had had good dogs and bad dogs and smart dogs and dumb dogs.  And once or twice, exceptional dogs who made the world a kinder, more loving place to be in.

Buster was one of the greats.  And I know Mary Lu and Kenny will always feel his loss.

My heart goes out to them- and to all of you who have ever been owned by a pet who has loved us and left us.

RIP, Mister Buster.  May you eternally play your “Running away from the leash and drinking up all your water” game in Dog Heaven.

And say hello to Andy when you see him.

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Posted in Dogs, Old English Sheepdog | 14 Comments

Light The Candles

Well, Dear Readers, it’s great to be back.  I have been recuperating from a nasty little operation on my… none of your beeswax.

My hideous internal abscess of March returned with a vengeance and surgical intervention was necessary to get me healing.

Ugh.  The bad news is that it’s a long, slow process.  Let’s just say I won’t be wearing a bathing suit any time soon.

But the good news is that my condition is NOT life-threatening and I’m semi-out and about and able to write again.

However my energy level and wardrobe choices do still limit my activities and I’ve had to pick and choose events I can show up at these days.

And the first event I attended post-op was an important one.

It was the Risa K. Lambert Luncheon to benefit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C.

My post “Never Again” explains why I fervently support this museum- and all that it stands for.  Please read it if you haven’t already.

Now you know why I found the afternoon so inspirational.  You’d have to be made of stone if you weren’t moved to tears by the tales of bravery and hope in the face of unimaginable human suffering and loss.

And you’d have to be an idiot if you didn’t feel frightened by the political climate change so chillingly apparent in the wake of Charlottesville.

Just seeing that menacing and oddly familiar footage of thugs chanting “Jews will not replace us” made me think it was 1939 all over again.

But this time we can’t turn a blind or worse- indifferent- eye to the news. We know exactly what cruelty human beings can dole out.

We heard some of those stories but we also heard stories of courage, redemption and incredible sacrifice.

And at the end of the program, the audience lit candles in memory of those who perished and we all pledged a resolution that the ugliest chapter in twentieth century history would not repeat itself ever again.

We vowed that prejudice and hatred would not be tolerated- regardless of one’s religion, race or creed.

As I lit my candle and swore my promise, I got a text from my son, Nick.

He and his wife Missy were on the way to the hospital.

And on Saturday, September 9, I lit another kind of candle.

A birthday one.

Happy birthday, Hendrix Benjamin Ross.

As I blew out his birthday candle, I wished him a better world.

It’s up to us now.

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Posted in History, Holocaust Museum, Philanthropy | 14 Comments

Heartburn

Emergency Doctor’s Note:  I am having surgery today for that problem in March that I thought was fixed.  This came as a complete surprise and this sucks, Dear Readers.  Please bear with me as my next Letter From Elba post will be postponed until I’m back on my feet and writing again.  Meantime, enjoy today’s blog but don’t bother to post comments. I’m not going to be able to put them up today.  (Btw, any good thoughts coming my way would be much appreciated.)

…So a couple of years ago I was visiting my son Nick in Seattle.  It was a Saturday night and we had just had a late night après-theater dinner with our friend, Lou Magor.

(If you don’t already know Seattle’s finest, read all about Lou in Mensch.)

It was 11:30 and I went all in- pulled pork sandwich with spicy cole slaw.  We yakked it up for an hour and then it was time to hit the hay.

Not so fast.

The moment I lay down I was overcome by an unfamiliar burning sensation in my stomach and my throat.

“Yikes! This must be heartburn, ” I thought.  “I’ll never eat that late again.  I must be getting old.”

And I tossed and turned the rest of that sleepless night.

But the burning sensation came back.  It didn’t matter what I ate or when I ate it. Whenever I went to bed, it would reappear like Old Faithful.

Ouch.

By the end of two years, I was at my wits’ end.  I was in mucho pain, no matter what I ate. As soon as I went to bed, it didn’t matter if I had ingested a meringue or a ghost pepper.  I was in Hell on the inside.

Of course I was concerned.  And of course I did what any sensible person does when they have a major medical problem.

I consulted WebMD.

The diagnosis was clear.  The Internet said I had GERD.

Hmmm.

There didn’t seem to be much I could do about it- other than leave out virtually every food I enjoyed and sleep on my left side.

And for two years, I gave the restricted diet and sleep-on-the-side thing a try.   I  also went through industrial size bottles of Tums and Rolaids.  I ate food so bland it would be banned in nursing homes.

Nada.

And then one day, Nick- who was tired of me bitching every time we sat down at a meal together- said this.

“Maybe you should try these, Dude.  I’m lactose-intolerant and they’ve really helped me.  Take them right before you start eating.  What have you got to lose?”

He handed me two little white pills.

What indeed? I took them.

They worked.  No pain, BIG gain.

“What are those things?” I asked my son, The Drug Dealer.

“This stuff.  I buy it on-line.  It’s from Canada.”

“But you can just get something like it at GNC, Dude.”

And that’s just what I did.

I’ve been heartburn-free since April and it’s been heavenly.

Oh, by the way, when I went to my yearly physical with my endocrinologist (no thyroid, long story) Dr. Pitts asked me how my heartburn was.

“It’s gone, ” I reported.  “I take these crummy pills that Nick told me about and for some reason, they seem to work.  Don’t ask me why but they do.”

I reached into my bag and handed them over.

“I know they’re not prescription or anything,” I said sheepishly. “But they’ve stop the burning.  Do you think I’m nuts?”

“I take the exact same pills,” he replied.

My son, The Doctor!

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Posted in Aging, GNC | Leave a comment

Hello Muddah Hello Faddah

Dear Mom and Dad,

Camp is keen! I am having so much fun at Ojibwa!

Here is my schedule.

At 8:30 Reveille is played over a loud speaker. Then campers get to make the announcement that it’s time to rise and shine and hit the dining hall. Today my friends Suzie and Dee made it.

Breakfast is great.  There is SO much food.  Pretty much anything you can think of.

I have hot chocolate with those little marshmallows that I like.

Chris makes a few announcements as we eat about the tennis tournaments and stuff and then it’s time for morning activities.

I do lots of early morning stuff on these two swings.  Aren’t they cool?

At 10 a.m. it’s time for Arts and Crafts.

My counselor Naomi is so awesome.  She is from Manchester, England and she is pretty and fun and she talks just like Liam Gallagher.

My big art project was to tie dye a shirt.  (My friend Eliza spilled hot chocolate on it last summer and we thought that it would be so neat to cover the little chocolate spots that never came out with tie dye.)

Here is my shirt now.

We made lanyards instead.

Aren’t they cool?

After Arts and Crafts, we had the Climbing Wall, the Zip Line and Water Skiing.  My friend Eliza was so good at everything!

Then it was time for lunch.  Camp has the BIGGEST buffet ever.  I mean it was bigger than that hotel in Las Vegas that you like, Mom.

What I liked was the pickles.  They have those little round flat ones.  And I like the taco chips.  They’re very crunchy.

After lunch it’s time for Afternoon Activities.

That’s Kenny’s hand.  We are sitting in the Pontoon Boat.

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you that my friends Dickie and Wendy and Mike were singing on the Pontoon Boat. They had guitars and everything and they did all the hard stuff like knowing all the words and harmonizing and stuff.   They were good!

After the Pontoon Boat, I played Box Hockey and Horseshoes with my new friends. Thomas and Billy.  They’re both new campers this summer. Thomas is younger than Billy but Billy is pretty immature so they hang around a lot and act silly together.  Billy pesters me all the time.  Like I said, he’s always goofing around.

Billy beat me in Box Hockey and Archery but I beat Thomas in Horseshoes.

Oh, here is a report from Denny.  He asked me to put it in with my letter.

Dear Lea and Ben,

As usual, we are trying very hard to get Ellen into the water.  I read the label on her bathing suit and it did not say “Dry Clean Only” like she said it did.

We are also working on getting her to:

  1.  Touch a basketball.
  2.  Catch a 16 inch softball
  3.  Climb the Climbing Wall
  4.  Zipline.  (She always says she’s going to do it but then she always refuses to climb the big tree.)
  5.  Keep her cabin neater.  Her hospital corners need work and she does not line her shoes up correctly.
  6.  Eat something besides pickles and taco chips.

All in all though, she’s a pretty good kid.  Grade- C-

Thanks, Denny Rosen, Director

P.S.  Kenny is great. Grade A+

Well, that’s it for now, Mom and Dad.  It’s almost Light Out and Billy is waiting for me down by the Boat Shed.   I wonder what he wants?

Love, Your Campfire Girl, Ellen

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Posted in Camp Ojibwa, Eagle River | 15 Comments

Flakey

Author’s Note: I’m heading to Eagle River soon, Dear Readers.  See you on August 20.

And now…

I thought I was too old to fall in love again.  But it turns out, there’s no fool like an old fool.

I am in love.  No.  Make that obsessed.

And the object of my affection?

A small French pastry called a canelé.

You can read the above Wikipedia article or just take my word for it.

Ooh la la!

Not too sweet with an exterior that is dark brown and crunchy and an interior that stays soft and custardy.

This way French pastry madness lies.

It all started here.  Petrossian Bakery in New York City.  I went in strictly as a by-stander. My sister-in-law Mary Lu, an expert in all choses chocolats, had a favorite cookie she wanted to buy there.

As I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, I stood idly by as she was making her choice.  But then I saw it.

Petrossian only bakes a dozen a day and it looked so tempting.  And at $2.50, it was easily the most reasonable purchase in Manhattan.

C’est si bon.

And when I came back to Chicago, I went searching for my new amour.

I made a rendez-vous to meet them again at La Boulangerie on Belmont and Floriole on Webster.

They were comme Çi comme Ça.  (Sorry about the capital “C.”  If I add the cedille, I get the cap.)

They would do but they didn’t measure up to their Frenchified cousins in NYC.

I was très désolée.

And then I went to Seattle.


(Photo by TBF)

Chamber of Commerce Sidebar:  Please note the sky.  It was CLOUDLESS.  The weather was spectacular for our entire visit.  Locals tell me that they put out the rumor that their beloved Emerald City is always rainy because they don’t want more tourons like me moving there.  It’s already the fastest-growing city in the U.S.

Anyway, Seattle is a fabulous food town and I thought I’d try my West Coast luck.

Et Voilà!

Crumble and Flake.

Their canelés- made only on weekends- were as good if not better than their Big Apple rivals.

And lest you think I was swooning in Seattle toute seule, I can assure you that TBF found his jam, as well.

Similar to a twice-baked almond croissant, these beauties “start with the bakery’s regular buttery croissant, split open and brushed with orange flower syrup and then they are filled and topped with rich pistachio cream.”

When we went back for an encore on Sunday, TBF swore to me that this was the best thing he had ever had in his mouth.

EVER.

To be honest, I have always had a love-hate relationship with the French.  I love their language, Colette, their clothes, their food and Alan Delon.

I hate their war record- Petain, Vichy, collabos– and their history of anti-Semitism.

(Although on July 16, President Emmanuel Macron did give a fiery speech in Paris saying “France would cede no ground to messages of hate, and we will cede no ground to anti-Zionism for it is a mere reinvention on anti-Semitism.”  Bravo.)

But the future for canalés and moi?

Looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

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Posted in Canale, Crumble and Flake, food, Pastry, Seattle | 4 Comments

In The Chips

Call me Mrs. Fields.

Or Famous Amos or the Burny Brothers.

That’s because since May of 2016 I have been in the cookie business.

The chocolate chip cookie business to be exact.

For over a year now, I have made The Boyfriend one batch of c.c. cookies every single week.

True, I’ve skipped a week here and there- called on account of illness or out of town- stuff like that.  However there have been a few weeks that circumstances have dictated that I make a double batch so I think it evens itself out.

I never intended having this second career moonlighting as a baker.  I see myself as the clever, temperamental, sensitive artiste type.  You know, clad all in black, moodily gazing out of a window in a shabby-but-chic Paris garret contemplating the mysteries of the universe and writing the Great American Blog.

Instead, a cruel quirk of fate has me trapped in an apron and left me to the mercy of cookie sheets, cooling racks, industrial strength cookie scoops, spatulas and oven mitts.

It seems that my very first gift batch of home-made cookies was a BIG hit with TBF.  He loved them and was so enthusiastic in his praise that I was encouraged to make another batch for our get-together the following weekend.

And the following…

And the following…

And the…

You get the idea.

And I waited patiently for him to get tired of them and let me off the baking hook.

But as the months rolled by, his enthusiasm never flagged,  In fact, it took on a more sinister form.

Addiction.

Friend of Bill W. Sidebar: TBF seems to have one of those “addictive” personalities.  When he likes something it becomes absolutely necessary to his well-being and peace of mind. He is a slave to his routine and doesn’t suffer changes easily.  I only that hope I am one of those habits he’d have a tough time kicking.

To that end, I have gone through floods of flour, barrels of butter, vats of vanilla, sacks of sugar.

And, of course, carloads of chips.

I have used so many heaping cupfuls that Nestle stock should be at an all-time high.

But the good news is that, by now, I can bake a mean chocolate chip cookie in my sleep.  I never have to check the recipe and all my utensils and ingredients are kept together in convenient easy-to-grab places in my kitchen.

I can now throw these together in record time and with the panache of a Winnetka Jacques Pepin.

(Do ANYTHING for a year, and you, too, can be a pro.)

At last count- and I counted out one heaping cupful of chips and then multiplied- I’ve used 18,880 chips so far.

So far, so good.

Quick Author’s Note: Dear Readers, I’m heading out of town this week.  Please excuse my absence.  I shall be back with a brand new blog post on Sunday, August 6.  Thank you.

Now enjoy this batch.

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Posted in Baking, Chocolate chip cookies, Cooking | 4 Comments

Kiddie Chic

That’s Natasha and Nick chez nous circa 1985, I’m guessing.  They’re gussied up for a Christmas party we threw that year.

I dug out this old photograph because I remember Natasha’s party dress.  It came from Cerutti in New York City.  Back in the day, all my kids’ dressy clothes did.

I had to shop long-distance for them because, in those days, there were not a lot of options to tog out your tots.

Oshkosh B’Gosh or Florence Eiseman- these were about my only two choices in kindergarb.  And if they didn’t have it at Marshall Fields or Marian Michael in Winnetka, I was toast.

That seems like ancient times nowadays.  I was strolling through a suburban mall the other day and I was struck by the number of stores dedicated to the proposition that all kids should be rigged out like Suri Cruise.

Baby Gap, Crew Cuts, Carter’s Babies & Kids, Polo For Kids… the choices were endless. Today, practically every high end designer label has a junior version.

In Chicago alone, baby boutiques like Psycho Baby, The Red Balloon, Twinkle Twinkle, Cloud & Bunny, Bonpoint and Milani are stylishly lurking to painlessly part you from your hard-earned cash.

Convenient?  Certainly.  Expensive? Unfortunately.

But today’s young moms and dads must not mind how much they have to shell out to make the Best-Dressed Kid List.

Or if they do, there is so much pressure from social media that they might as well surrender and  just start shopping.

Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest are all crammed to bursting with cute famous and semi-famous and wanna-be-famous mini me’s posing with pouty mouths and hands on hips in Kardashian fashion.

Seems like every kid these days has to look like he/she belongs to Gwen Stefani’s family or the Beckhams.

(Note the Empress of Chic, Anna Wintour, to the left of Harper Seven Beckham.)

And don’t forget about the Royals.  The Internet is filled with adorable photos of England’s tiny Prince George and Princess Charlotte.  And they always look smashing!

That’s a lot of peer pressure (no pun intended) for the average commoner parent today.

Whew.  I’m glad I missed this craze for designer duds for the under-ten-and over-privileged set.

But with the advent of Boston’s Sam, Carly and The Player To Be Named Later in Seattle, I just might get a chance to be lavish, silly, impractical, you know…

A grandmother.

Now where’s the Psychobaby website?  I know I saw baby socks with cheeseburgers on them…

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Posted in Childhood | 4 Comments

Trivial Pursuit

If I may direct your attention to the 1979 entry on the right Dear Readers, you will see the name “Ellen Ross” written below the title “Willie Nelson Stardusters.”

This is my listing on the roster of Hall of Famers in the National Trivia Bowl.

I’ve written about my participation in this annual event here before.

ICYMI.

Click here.

Of course, I took pride in my membership in this very exclusive clubs made up of geeks, freaks and weirdos.  My quick recall memory has always been my favorite body part and it was more than gratifying to have it tested in as meaningful way as this.

These were the best of the best in the USA and competing against- and with- these guys year after year kept me sharp- and sometimes humble.

Of course I was proud to be a member of such an elite body of trivia buffs.  I knew that I had earned my rightful place and no one could ever take that away from me.

Until now.

I haven’t competed in years but when I found out that there was a trivia contest on Monday nights in the bar where the Boyfriend (sometimes) hangs out, I was interested.

And cocky.

“I can whip their asses,” I bragged to TBF.  “No regular person can ever beat me at Trivia. And who are these guys who hang out there? Mensa candidates?  I’ve got this.  Just drive me over, order yourself a beer and sit back and watch me wax them.”

TBF was happy to oblige.

Monday night rolled around and I walked into that bar like a gunslinger.

And I was on fire.

I knew so many answers.  And I also knew that nobody else in the bar knew them.

After every section, the questions got tougher and the points increased in value.  The trivia hostess would then announce the team standings.

My team (me) was always in the lead by a mile.

And then came the final question.

“This is a multiple choice music question,” explained the quiz mistress.  “You have to bet your points before you answer and then we will tally the scores and announce the winner.”

“This will be a joke,” I smugly said to my table mate.  “A multiple choice question?  Come on.  Give me a break.”

And so I bet all my points and sat back- confident in the knowledge that I would win in a romp.

“And the final question is… according to Billboard, rank these artists as to who had the biggest earnings in 2016.  The singers are Madonna, Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Garth Brooks and Katie Perry.”

OMG.

I was so screwed.  I frantically guessed and rearranged names and erased and changed my mind until time was called.

And the winner was…

And the biggest loser- the gal who bet all the marbles was…

Me.

I was not happy.

“She specifically said ‘multiple choice.’  Not ‘multiple part,'” I fumed.  “That was a gyp.”

“I told you not to bet all your points,” pointed out TBF- much to my annoyance.

“And to think that I was leading the whole way. I’ll never do that again,” I vowed.

And so last month, when I found myself back at the bar on Trivia Night, I had a plan.  No matter how well I did, I was not going to get over-confident and bet the farm.  I would be conservative in my wagering.

The category that night was “Disney Movies.”  And the bar was filled to the rafters with tables of eight and ten all whooping it up.

“How are you on Disney movies?” asked TBF uneasily as he gazed around at the heavy competition.

“That depends.  I’m pretty solid on old Disney but if they start asking new Disney, I’m toast.”

I was toast.  Questions about Frozen and The Lion King and The Little Mermaid and Beauty and The Beast dominated the contest.

And to top off my humiliation, I missed Lady and The Tramp and Old Yeller questions.***

***Ok, do you know what breed(s) of dog Old Yeller was?  No way was he part mastiff!

I got about three questions right, and at the end of the evening my one man team ranked in the bottom third.

I had lost my mojo.

And then came the final multiple PART question.

It was ranking from oldest to newest five made-for-tv Disney movies.

I thought long and hard, put Halloweentown as the oldest, stuck High School Musical in the right spot but screwed up the dates on Zenon and Cadet Kelly.

I knew I had blown it but I hadn’t bet a single point.

And the winner was…

I came in second!

My free Diet Coke never tasted so good.

You betcha.

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Posted in pop culture, Trivia, Trivia Bowl | 13 Comments

No Cheval

…So a couple of weeks ago my son Nick sent me this list.

Top 100 Hamburgers in the United States.

He emailed it to me because he knows that I’m bananas for burgers.  I’m pretty sure that my last meal- if I had advance notice and could pick anything- would involve a long-gone shack on Dempster called Hershey’s and his cheeseburger with “secret sauce.”

ICYMI, read all about my burger obsession here.

Anyhow, Nick and I are pretty much in agreement when it comes to all things burger.  We both swoon over Beinlich’s and we both go ape for the burger at Superdawg.

Therefore, I listen to his recommendations with great interest.  And for the longest time, he has told me of his new FAVORITE hamburger in Chicago- and maybe anywhere…

Au Cheval.

For years he has raved on and on about the burger, the bun, the “au cheval” part- the yummy fried egg on top.  Not to mention the pickle, the ambience, well, everything.

“I swear to God, Dude, this is the best freakin’ hamburger I have ever had,” he will tell me.

And his sister Natasha- no slouch in the burger lover department either- backs his play.

“I love Beinlich’s best you know, Mom.  But after that, Au Cheval’s burger is my favorite,” she’ll chime in.

And Thrillist at the top of this post concurs.

(They rate it near the top of all burgers in the US- coming in at number 11.   Only the Mott Burger ranked higher in Chicago burgers.  It came in at number 7.)

So for YEARS, I have been going to Au Cheval.

And for YEARS, I have been striking out.

I have never eaten there.

I have gone for lunch and I have gone for dinner.

It is always the same old story.

Too long of a wait.

No matter how long I am willing to wait for this marvel of ground beef engineering, the text that our table is ready always comes too late.

(Just a little “Too Late” music for your listening enjoyment.)

I’ve struck out there so many times that I call it “No”Cheval.

But I didn’t reckon on my clever sister-in-law Mary Lu to the rescue.

Two weeks ago today we had a girls’ night out and she had a brainstorm.

Small Cheval!

IMHO pricey- but good.  And two double burgers, one order of fries and a split can of Diet Coke really hit the spot.

Was it the best burger in Chicago?  No.  But then again, it wasn’t the burger that Nick goes crazy for at the original restaurant so it really isn’t fair to compare.

I’ll have to save my review of that burger when -and IF- I ever actually eat there.

Until then, I’ll just have to wait for a miracle.And eat at Dick’s Drive-In the next time I’m in Seattle.

A fabulous, skinny double burger, no waiting and a price you can really sink your teeth into.

Au Cheval will have to wait for me for a change.

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Posted in Au Cheval, Chicago, food, Hamburgers, Restaurants, Small Cheval | 20 Comments