About Dani

I am a pre-medical student at Northwestern University who also studies film. In another life (ie High School) I was a Shakespearian actress, and occasionally still dabble in theatre. I passionately believe that theatre should be spelled with an "-re" NOT an "-er." I like to travel, read, write, and cook. My college classes keep me pretty busy so no promises this blog will be updated often, but occasionally I'll throw my two cents out there. Enjoy.

When the Cubs Won the World Series

Intellectually, I wanted the Cubs to win the World Series.

Though it would have been better in 2015 as predicted by Back to the Future, I figured better late than never. But over the past seven days I saw an entire city come together to witness a piece of history. And I was there for it. The way I felt at 11:47pm on Wednesday November 2nd was so much more than intellectual.

Prior to Saturday October 29th 2016, the sum total of my knowledge about baseball amounted to three strikes and you’re out, remembering about 80% of the lyrics to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” and whatever I gleaned from a tour of the Louisville Slugger factory last summer.

My girlfriend and I tuned into the Saturday night game somewhere around the fourth inning and proceeded to watch us get slaughtered by the Indians’ superior pitching. Even I could tell we were falling apart at the seams. But I paid attention, started figuring out the rules, and listened to my girlfriend’s commentary about the players (which was so much more informative that Joe Buck’s).

The next day, an article was published that said, “Good news Indians fans, your team is probably going to win the World Series. Bad news Cubs fans, your team is probably not going to win the World Series.” The Cubs were losing 3-1 and would need to win the next three games in a row to win the series. Statistically, if the teams were evenly matched, they had a 12.5% chance. Not great odds.

I figured we were doomed.

That night, I had a couple friends over to carve pumpkins and watch the game. I was shocked to realize I actually cared if we won. And it was an exciting game. The Cubs upped their game significantly and played as a team. But the Indians were at the top of their form too. It was a nail biter.

Carving pumpkins during the Cubs game

Carving pumpkins during the Cubs game

When the game ended with the Cubs victorious and headed back to Cleveland, still in the running, we cheered.

Monday and Tuesday I saw people wearing Cubs gear all over the city. There was a real feeling of collective excitement. There was this thing, this potential piece of history, binding Chicagoans together.

I agreed to meet my girlfriend at Harry Caray’s Seventh Inning Stretch, a Cubs themed restaurant in Water Tower Place, to watch the sixth game of the World Series. In my Uber there, the driver asked in a thick Russian accent if we could listen to the first inning on the radio. I said of course. I realized that over the last two games I’d learned enough baseball terminology that I was actually following the game. As we cruised down Lakeshore Drive we listened to Kris Bryant hit a home run in the top of the first and we cheered together.

At the restaurant, we scored a table nestled in amongst other Cubs fans, young and old. We cheered and groaned together, heckled the Indians players, and high fived after Addison Russell’s grand slam.

The game was magic. The Cubs were on fire, and though we all knew they couldn’t hear us cheering states away, we did it anyway. At the end of the night, screw the odds, we’d made it to game seven of the World Series.

The next night, it felt like the entire city was out to watch the game. My girlfriend and I tried to return to Harry Caray’s but it was booked up, and the next three places we tried couldn’t seat us either. But the magic continued, because we saw Fowler’s home run through the window of a restaurant we considered.

Finally, we spotted an Italian joint that didn’t seem completely packed. We ended up with a table right away and watched the game unfold, surrounded mostly by large, multi-generational families, all rooting for the Cubs.

Watching game seven

Watching game seven

Game seven was an emotional roller coaster. I was on the edge of my seat when we goofed in the seventh inning and let them tie the score. That was the moment I realized how invested I was in this, not exactly as a Cubs fan (having only seen two and a half games so far), but as a Chicagoan, surrounded by other Chicagoans who had all literally been waiting their whole lives for this moment.

The rain delay before the tenth inning was a blessing and a curse. My girlfriend and I moved into the bar where the sound was up on the TVs to watch the final inning. The sound the bar made when Rizzo caught the ball that ended the game was incredible: one part elation, one part celebration, and one part surprise that we’d really done it. We’d won the World Series.

They poured prosecco and we toasted and cheered and hugged and kissed. Outside, everyone honked their horns, yelled, and sang “Go Cubs, go! Hey Chicago, what do you say? The Cubs are gonna win today!”

For a moment, the whole city was united and celebrating an achievement 108 years in the making.

I will probably never care that much about the outcome of a sporting event again, but I am so glad I was there and fully present when the curse was broken.

Go Cubs!

Celebrating the end of the curse

Celebrating the end of the curse

Millions gathered for the Cubs parade

Millions gathered for the Cubs parade

Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch: A True Midwestern Experience

This weekend was Homecoming at Northwestern (a fact I would normally find completely irrelevant). The only reason it registered at all this year is that  Tori helped organize a CA reunion on campus so she came down to spend Friday and Saturday nights at 802.

After her festivities ended she, Zoe, and I planned to head out for a fall-themed midwestern adventure.

The original plan was actually to go apple picking. However, a little internet researching lead us to discover that apple season is actually almost over and most of the pick-your-own orchards are actually just charging an exorbitant amount of money for a ride out to the orchard and the privilege of putting 5 or 6 apples selected out of a giant tub into a flimsy plastic bag. The orchards were all at least an hour and a half away to boot.

All was not lost however! We wracked our brains for other fun, fall-themed, adventures we could go on and we came up with something amazing: Corn mazes.

Midwestern transplants that we are, Zoe and I had never been to a corn maze before and Tori could not let this stand. A quick Yelp search turned up a promising farm in Waukegan called Kroll’s Fall Harvest Farm.

Our course decided we headed out. It was a pretty easy drive (about 45 minutes north) and the scenery was beautiful. It was pretty overcast but not raining and all the leaves have started to turn brilliant shades of canary yellow and fire engine red. Once we started to see corn we knew we were getting close!

I was a little afraid the place might be swamped but there were only a handful of other families around. We could see the pumpkin patch ahead and some sort of farm area off in the back corner. We made a bee line for the corn maze and bought our tickets. We were shown a quick (and probably not highly accurate) map of the maze. This wasn’t just a maze, it was an educational scavenger hunt!

We would be learning about soybeans (about halfway through the maze we stopped to wonder why we weren’t learning about corn, but whatever). The first section of the maze wasn’t really a maze, it was an easy path in the shape of the slogan “We Are Family.” Throughout that first section there were 6 educational signs about soybeans for us to study.

Soybean facts

Soybean facts

When we got to the end of the “Y” we would enter the real maze, which was divided into 3 sections: 1-5, 6-8, and 9-12.

End of the first section

End of the first section

End of the second section

End of the second section

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hidden in each section of the maze were signs with questions on them about soybeans. The signs all had hole punches for our score card. Zoe was kind enough to repair one who’s hole punch had come unmoored.

Question 2: Soybeans were first grown in Africa or China?  Answer: China

Question 2: Soybeans were first grown in Africa or China?
Answer: China

There were also people scattered throughout who would be as helpful (or unhelpful) as we wanted with hints. We made a pact to tough it out. No hints for us.

Starting the maze

Starting the maze

We had a great time exploring the maze, taking turns choosing our path. It was a lot of fun to wander, trying to deduce the logic behind the sign placement (theoretically they were easiest to find in order – though that was not how our search algorithm seemed to work!). Though we repeatedly turned down offers of navigational assistance, we did ask someone to take our picture.

This is the quintessential midwestern fall experience

This is the quintessential midwestern fall experience

We kept trying to establish landmarks (“No, no, I’m sure I saw this strangely curled corn husk before!”) but discovered we all have decent senses of direction. Sign number 7 almost eluded us, but Tori spotted a flash of orange down a dead end branch and we prevailed.

Surprisingly we never ran into another guest, though we could occasionally hear other people through the corn stalks. The maze is actually open until 10pm most nights. Navigating it with a flashlight would be an interesting (and perhaps creepy) experience.

It took us about an hour to completely explore the maze (some sections more than once… or twice…). We had a blast!

Once we emerged victorious we went to get hot apple cider to warm our hands around. It was exactly what we needed. Contextually, that was the tastiest cider I’ve ever had. Cider obtained, we wandered over to the back corner and discovered a corral full of goats, sheep, an alpaca (named Lola), a donkey, and a donkey foal. There was also an impressively fluffed up Turkey who did not like us getting too close to his mate.

It's. So. Fluffy.

It’s. So. Fluffy.

The best part was the goat kids. A very nice young man picked one up so we could pet her (all the kids had princess names!). She was very fuzzy and made the most adorable bleating sounds.

We forked over several dollars in quarters to feed them cheerios.

"Her name was Lola. She was a show girl."

“Her name was Lola. She was a show girl.”

Tori made friends with the owner of the farm (Kroll himself!), who knew all the animals’ names (Oreo and Socks were adorable little goats) and seemed like a very nice gentleman.

Just as the sun was about to set the clouds cleared off, yielding a beautiful sunset that laced all the trees with gold.

Sunset

Sunset

We ended our visit with a trip to the pumpkin patch. Zoe and I picked out beautiful $10 pumpkins for carving next weekend. It was a tough decision because ALL the pumpkins were beautiful. I’ve never seen such attractive gourds all in one place!

We hauled our pumpkins out to the car in a little red wagon and loaded them up. We took the scenic route back and wiggled along Sheridan and Green Bay. We ended our evening at home with hot chocolate and Bailey’s.

All in all, a truly wonderful day!

 

Recipe: Vegan Chocolate Chip Cooffins

The scuffins last night were such a success I started to wonder what other kinds of scuffins I could dream up… chocolate obviously came to mind.

Ultimately, the experiment was quite successful. I realized after I took them out of the oven that I forgot to add the vanilla, and I think that would be a great addition, but they are still pretty fantastic, even without.

The outsides of these are a little crispier than the pumpkin scuffins turned out, but the inside is still soft, although not quite as moist. The consistency of these is more like a cross between a muffin and cookie, hence “cooffins.”

Delicious!

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cooffins

Prep: 15 min
Bake: 22 min
Yield: 15 cooffins

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup white flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp fine grain sea salt
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance
  • 1/4 agave nectar
  • 1/2 cup cane sugar
  • 1 egg substitute (3 tbsp water, boiled, with 1 tbsp flax meal)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325F.
  2. Mix dry ingredients (flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and cocoa powder) together in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Bring 3 tbsp of water to a boil in a very tiny pot or pan. Add flax meal and stir. Boil for about 2-3 minutes or until mixture has thickened. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. In another mixing bowl cream slightly softened earth balance, sugar, and agave together, until creamy.
  5. Add egg substitute,  vanilla, and almond milk to the wet ingredients and stir until smooth.
  6. Combine wet and dry ingredients and stir. I ended up using my hands to combine at the end. Dough should be slightly sticky.
  7. Add chocolate chips and work into dough.
  8. Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray (grapeseed oil).
  9. Form approximately 3-inch patties out of dough and place on baking sheet 1.5 inches apart. Just shape the patties gently, don’t compress them too much.
  10. Bake for approximately 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  11. Enjoy!

Recipe: Pumpkin Scuffins

What is a scuffin, you ask? A scuffin is the offspring of a muffin and a scone. They turn out roughly scone shaped but have a consistency closer to that of a muffin. And they are delicious.

I found this recipe at ohsheglows.com when looking for vegan dessert ideas. Oh She Glows is a great resource for vegans because the author posts tons of recipes.

These pumpkin scuffins were a huge hit. They came out moist and delicious. I will definitely be making these again!

Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 20-25 minutes
Yield: 12 scuffins

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup white flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • dash allspice
  • 1/2 tsp fine grain sea salt
  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance
  • 1/4 agave nectar
  • 1/2 cup organic cane sugar
  • 1 cup canned pureed pumpkin
  • 1 egg substitute (try 3tbs of water with 1 tbs flax meal)
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325F.
  2. Mix dry ingredients (flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and salt) together in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Bring 3 tbsp of water to a boil in a very tiny pot or pan. Add flax meal and stir. Boil for about 2-3 minutes or until mixture has thickened. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. In another mixing bowl cream slightly softened earth balance, sugar, and agave together, until creamy.
  5. Add pumpkin puree, egg substitute, and vanilla to the wet ingredients and stir until smooth.
  6. Combine wet and dry ingredients and stir. I ended up using my hands to combine at the end. Dough should be slightly sticky.
  7. Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray (grapeseed oil).
  8. Form approximately 3-inch patties out of dough and place on baking sheet 1.5 inches apart. Just shape the patties gently, don’t compress them too much.
  9. Bake for approximately 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  10. Enjoy!

Day 32

Months ago I saw Pearl and the Beard, a band Tori introduced me to, was playing at SPACE. I immediately bought tickets and secured the front and center table. Life is good.

The show was tonight. Sadly, Tori ended up having CA commitments and couldn’t make it to the show, but Rachel, Charlotte, Zoe and I went. Rachel was intrigued by the warm-up band, Midnight Moxie, but actually the warm-up to the warm-up was better.

The first warm-up was Abigail Stauffer, a singer-songwriter from Michigan. Her voice is truly beautiful. It was basically just her and an acoustic guitar although she did bring one of her friends up on stage to play a washboard as percussion for a couple of songs.

The real standouts from her set were “Beloved,” “College, Love And Cheesecake,” as well as a gorgeous cover of “Hallelujah.”

Abigail Stauffer (and Vince)

Midnight Moxie, is an all girl Chicago-based doo-wop rock trio. Their songs have pretty clever lyrics and they have a fun stage presence, but the performance lacked a little polish. I also suspect they may have been having some monitor issues so they might not have been able to hear themselves, which might have messed with some of their harmonies. I bought their CD and will definitely give it a listen because I think the band has a a lot of potential in a controlled setting.

Midnight Moxie

The crowd was so pumped for Pearl and the Beard. The amount of noise made when they took the stage was incredible.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Pearl and the Beard I highly recommend you check them out. They have a unique and varied sound, from the upbeat “Voice in My Throat,” to the somewhat rockous “Oh Death,” to the slower more plaintive “Mistakes.” Pearl and the Beard is Jocelyn Mackenzie, Emily Hope Price, and Jeremy Styles. All three musicians sing, and many of their songs are built around complex harmonies. Jeremy plays guitar, Jocelyn plays the drums, and Emily makes her cello laugh, cry, and sing. Until I saw the band live I had no idea how integral the cello was to their sound.

These performers have great chemistry on stage

This is a great band to see in concert because they talk. A lot. They talk to each other on stage, and have a great rapport. The girls occasionally gang up on Jeremy, but he takes it in stride and his humor is self-deprecating. They also talk to the audience, telling anecdotes, and responding to the occasional comment. When they first came on stage the audience roared and Jocelyn, who was still setting things up, turned and looked out at the crowd and said, “Wait for it. We haven’t even done anything yet!”

Near the end of the show, a joke got started where someone from the audience called out that they could basically play anything, including the phone book, and everyone would love it. A while later, Emily said they only had time for two more songs, and someone in the back yelled, “Phone book!” Without missing a beat, Emily started singing a very dramatic version of the ABCs accompanied by her cello, while Jeremy pretended to chug his gin and tonic.

Emily just makes that cello emote

The band played a lot of louder upbeat numbers, but wasn’t afraid to pull it back and do some of their quieter stuff. Jeremy stepped forward, away from his mike, and played a song essentially unplugged. The audience hushed to listen and the experience was very intimate.

Unplugged acoustic number

The fans were enthusiastic, and the request for an encore was loud and genuine. The response was so positive that Emily actually got a little choked up, confessing that even after all this time, every time they play she’s so nervous no one will come, and telling the fans how much the band loves them and appreciates their support.

All in all, a wonderful evening. Good company. Fantastic Band(s). SPACE was, as always, the perfect venue for this type of concert: small enough to be intimate, professional enough that the bands sound great. Two thumbs up, and definitely check out Pearl and the Beard if they come your way.

Day 31

This was a rather impressive cobweb we discovered in our living room. I suppose it was likely to catch bugs attracted to the light.

Conical Cobweb (wouldn't that be a good name for an alternative rock band?)

Day 30

Tonight we hung out at Zoe’s new apartment. Rachel, Tori, and Dana were there, and wherever Dana goes, cuddle-puddles tend to follow.

Five people on a couch designed for two... win.

Day 29

Unfortunately my front bike tire was stolen the other night. The joke is probably on whoever took it though because all summer I’ve suspected the tire had a slow leak. Two very kind friends, Mike and Violet, gave me a ride over to the bike shop to get it fixed. I took this picture to remind me how I angled the lock to get around the post, around the bike frame and through the wheel. It’s not as easy as it looks…

Day 28

All the freshmen are moving in today. They look so little. And eager.  It’s adorable.

I’m not sure if this was a sanctioned welcome or if someone is in big trouble, but the fountain downtown had a large quantity of purple dye dumped in it last night. It’s pretty spectacular.

I love the lighting in this shot

Day 27

They finally took the construction fence down in front of Deering Library. They completely redid the entrance, but it’s subtle. They did a great job matching the stone.

Love the ivy!