After not getting to bed until after 1 am on Thursday night, only to get up to go to work on Friday at 7, I was more than ready to sleep in this morning.  I don’t even think we got out of bed until nearly 10:30!  We had some errands to run and decided to have breakfast out.  Not that I don’t love going out to dinner, but something about going out to a diner for hot coffee and breakfast just appeals to me.  As does the price tag!

We usually go to a place called Mama Rini’s in Crystal Lake.  Turns out I’ve talked about it a few time!

We went today and . . . they were closed.  Like sign in the window saying its closed, no cars in the parking lot.  Granted, it’s probably been like six months since we’ve been there, but we were a bit disappointed.  We looked across the street and saw another diner, used to be IHOP, now its just called The Forester.  We almost nixed the idea because on the front sign it said “come in for our fresh Walleye!”  Um, no.

Well, we were pleasantly surprised.  Decent coffee, and as we were walking in we asked a woman if she knew what happened to Mama Rini’s and she said she didn’t know, but was happy about the food at this place and said she loved the breakfast sandwich.  Done.  Scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, ham on grilled sourdough bread with hash browns on the side.  Yes please!  Because it was nearly noon, this was my breakfast and lunch.  And I ended up just eating half of the potatoes and half of the sandwich, and will probably reheat it tomorrow for breakfast.  And they offered Cholula AND Tabasco for hot sauces.  They scored extra points with me on that one!


Yesterday since I slept in, I really hadn’t put any food together.  My first thought was “forget it – just get McDonald’s and Subway!”  But I figured the amount of time it would take me to go through the drive through, I could throw stuff in a bag for breakfast and lunch.

Breakfast was half a bagel sammie – whole grain bagel, 1 egg, 3 slices of pepperoni, 1 slice of ham and American cheese.  Yum.


I didn’t work out at lunch yesterday because I had a phone interview with the charity that I donated the second half of the $5,000 Spark People contestCommon Threads.   I spoke with Larissa, their marketing director and when we first started the conversation she said “thank you so much for introducing us to Spark People!”  Both organizations had never heard of each other, and because of me making the connection between the two, they talked for hours about how they could partner up with each other!  Common Threads is now going to have a blog on Spark People’s site, they are going to be sharing recipes and feel that they will have this mutual relationship for the long haul – how cool is that?!

What’s more is that the $5,000 being donated, that is enough money to send 10 kids to a 3 week culinary camp in the summer – each student costs $500 for the three weeks, and they are inviting me to the kick off day at summer camp to spend a day cooking with the campers.  I am beyond excited about that! 

What’s more?  82% of the kids who complete the culinary camp only eat fast food once a week after taking this program.  They learn not only how to shop for whole and healthy food at the store, but how to prepare it and take that knowledge back to their parents and grandparents.  They also have a new cookbook out called Eat the World, which is a cookbook that teaches kids about all ethnicities of cooking. 

It was an informative conversation and I will be in their December newsletter – I will definitely link to it later this week!  Since I still had time on my lunch hour I ended up running a couple errands.  Guess what’s opening next week 5 minutes from my office??!!


Long time readers know that I haven’t shopped retail for clothes in probably 10-15 years.  I will definitely be hitting up this place soon!  When I got back to work I made lunch – I bought a small jar of marinara sauce at Walgreen’s and topped that with leftover pasta and fresh broccoli.  Easy and delicious!


I left work at 4 to drive to the restaurant.  Since there is still no advertising until after the new year, you never know what you are going to get.  I got more tables, but smaller tabs.  I had one group of 20 somethings that all split 1 pizza and each had iced tea – $30 tab for a 4 top isn’t that great.  But, I still ended up making $100 AND I was home by 10:50 p.m.!  Not too bad!  I actually don’t mind that the restaurant is slow because I am becoming that more knowledgeable about the food so that I can actually recommend something without having to look at the menu.   A couple dishes I haven’t had before:

Manhattan Clam Chowder.  When I asked the cook behind the line what the soup of the day was he said “corn chowder.”  Huh.  It didn’t look anything like a corn chowder I’ve seen before.  I took a small cup – it was tomato based, had chunks of potato and veggies – it almost tasted like a tortilla soup?  Imagine my surprise when the Chef told me it was Manhattan Clam Chowder!  It was really good.   Ahem, I may have had to add some Tabasco sauce!


Next up – THE BIG BURGER!  Yep, this is a family size burger – 4 pounds of beef!  They actually cook it on a flat top.  The Chef had a specially made spatula to flip it.  It is then cut into “slider” size pieces and the garnishments are all on the side.  I didn’t have high hopes for this.  I imagined the outside pieces being overcooked and the inside being mushy.  OMG, such a good burger!  Each piece was either medium or mid rare.  It’s all about the beef.  The Chef makes his own grind using short ribs, hanger steak and ground sirloin.  This is actually the same mix they use on their burgers at lunch.


Next up?  Honey Chicken.  Two boneless, skinless chicken thighs that are soaked overnight in buttermilk and 8 different spices.  Then double battered in simply seasoned all purpose flour then deep fried.  It’s served with a honey mustard sauce and cole slaw.


The Lamb Lollipop chops looked good.  I can’t remember the description, but these are served with a hot and cold potato salad in the middle.  The Chef makes a typical potato salad, but then mixes in hot hash browns in the middle.  The customer who got this gave it  two thumbs up.


And last, but not least, one of our shared desserts – Cannoli dip.  It’s the typical cannoli filing in the middle, drizzled with chopped pistachios, and for dipping?  Broken cannoli shells, both regular and chocolate covered, then drizzled with chocolate sauce.  For the record?  This dessert is insulin worthy!


So all in all – not a bad day!

When I got home I was so happy that I got a package from Louise!  I mentioned her etsy store the other day.  She sells greeting cards and a host of other crafty things.   I ended up buying some holiday cards and every day cards.  I still love to send snail mail.  I was an avid letter writer growing up and I need to remind myself that sometimes people appreciate the time you spend sitting down to paper and pen instead of an email.

I was OVERWHELMED at the quality of these cards for the price I paid.  Each one is absolutely gorgeous and I kept showing them to Tony saying “look at this one!”  We were so taken by how good they were, that when Tony looked on the back of the card and saw her phone number, we decided to give her a call.

She is a lovely woman!  Just as I imagined she would be.  We had a great 15 minute conversation.  It was nice to get to know her more, and I just had to tell her in person how much I appreciate the detail that went into each of these cards.  She says each one takes anywhere from 15 – 30 minutes to make!   They were all nicely wrapped up in a bow with a beautiful card.



Here, of course, is one of my favorites.


And then she mailed me a separate card to me and Tony – how did she know I like snowmen?!


So thank you Louise – all of these cards are much appreciated!  If you have special people you want to send one of a kind cards to, please check out Louise’s etsy store – you will not be disappointed!

Alright, I have to run.  I have to get ready to work at the restaurant tonight AND I have a batch of whiskey sriracha caramel corn in the oven!!  If it works out, I’ll post the recipe next week.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!  I am looking forward to getting bizzy in my kitchen tomorrow – hooray for Sunday’s!  Hugs!