C'mon. Confess. We all have things we can't resist. Here are our Midwest indulgences. Fessing up is good for the soul. But so is pie for lunch and spending too much on jeans.
How do you Indulge?
(Originally Published: March/April 2007)
Buying expensive jeans
I was brought up to bargain hunt, the queen of $3 earrings. So when I heard that fellow shoppers in Chicago were snapping up jeans for more than $150, I was shocked. Curious, too. What makes denim with designer names like Seven For All Mankind so special? I needed to know. I went to Krista K boutique in Lincoln Park and left-with two pairs, one from Meli-Melo and one from Citizens of Humanity. The salesgirl praised how each made me seem 5 pounds slimmer. The grand total? $225. Yikes! I'd never spent that much on clothes.
It took a few weeks, but then the jeans seemed, well, justified. Was my guilty conscience tricking me, or did these jeans actually feel better (aside from the compliments)? A year later, I'm hooked. I frequent The Blues Jean Bar, with more than 200 styles for women, most going for $175. Patrons order at a long, wood bar: a fitting setup for a vice. I still shudder at the cost. But overall, I'm OK with my ensemble. My jeans are like a car payment, but my sweater cost only $15. And my earrings, $3.
- Contributing writer, Kelly Aiglon, recently found a cool metallic-gold handbag for $1
Faking a sick day
Ask anyone: I'm honest to a fault. But when Mom called with tickets to the Oprah Winfrey Show in Chicago, what could I say? My employer at the time had a policy: no vacation days without notice. So I did something I'd never done. I called in sick. But I did it for Mom...
Our seats were behind Oprah. Mom was disappointed because we didn't have the best view. I was worried because we'd be on camera. But since the show was live, there was little chance my boss would see his "sick" employee in Oprah's audience. I gave the camera a little smile. It felt good to have a play day. Later, I realized the show reran at night, and the next day, my boss commented on a news story, adding, "It's just like something you'd see on Oprah." I froze. What are the chances?
- Copy Chief Kendra L. Williams' New Guilt: Screening Mom's Calls During American Idol.
Escaping to the woods
A good dad would be home on a Saturday, chatting with his wife over coffee and scribbling in coloring books with his little girls. But me? I'm tromping through waist-high grass before dawn, hoping to see nobody for the rest of the day. I like empty prairies and shadowy woods. Alone. I wait for deer or turkey to walk by with no clue I'm there. That's hard to pull off with 4- and 6-year-old girls shrieking over flowers and stacking acorns so they'll be easier for squirrels to find. So I usually go solo in places like southeastern Ohio's Dysart Woods Laboratory, an obscure virgin forest with oaks 4 feet wide and 140 feet high. But I'm not totally selfish. Sometimes, I take home a few acorns for the girls.
- Managing Editor Trevor Meers' World is Changing, Thanks to the Arrival of a Barbie Fishing Rod.
I'm addicted to kitchen gear: smooth-handled knives, fruit peelers, bent frosting spreaders. No matter that I have a kitchen full of everything; I need more. Like the Good Grips mango splitter. It's a lovely thing the size of a saucer, with cushioned black handles and a stainless-steel blade shaped like a mango pit. It splits a mango and removes the pit in one easy motion. Should I ever need to split one, I'm ready. How did I ever go without?
- Senior Food Editor Diana McMillen Now has Her Eyes on a Flooding Cutting Board
Pie for Lunch and More Guilty Pleasures
Holing up in a hotel
It's raining tonight, and I couldn't be happier. I'm settled into my room at Chicago's Hotel Monaco after a long business day, and now it's me time. I have friends who'd like to see me for dinner, and I have e-mail I could check, but frankly, I'm busy right now with a nine-piece box of Vosges exotic chocolates and a bottle of red wine from room service.
My room has a river view and window seat. I turn on some music and, propped up by pillows, watch the city while savoring my wine and chocolates (I should have splurged on the 12-piece box!). Next, I drop an ice-cream-scoop of bath fizz (bought in the lobby for $7.61) in my bath and just soak. I put on a terry robe and prepare for bed-luxurious sheets, a down-filled duvet and lots of pillows. But I'm in no rush to go to sleep. Room service is still open!
- Travel Manager Jodie Burlog Schafer Remains Very Willing to go on Business Trips
Having someone clean your house
There are dishes in the sink, shoes in a jumble by the front door and wet towels that have dried into stiff little sculptures on the kids' bathroom floor. And that's just the mess I see out of the corner of my eye as I make for the driveway, where an equally messy car will take me to the airport. If I admitted it to myself, I'd realize that I'm rushing not to make a plane, but to avoid the cleaning crew that will arrive at any moment. I don't want to explain what I did last night instead of picking up the shoes. And what kind of person leaves dishes in the sink? Who lives like this? I don't want answers. I just want the dirt and the clutter to magically disappear-along with the check I leave on the kitchen counter.
- Senior Travel Editor Barbara Morrow Now Would Like Something Done with her Car, Too.
Eating dessert -- for lunch!
My secret culinary dreams have names like Banana Cream. Triple Berry. Apple Crunch. Strawberry-Rhubarb. Chocolate Pecan. French Silk. Sour-Cream Raisin. So I had to work hard to control my glee when I learned that part of my Taste of the Midwest summer road trip in 2005 would require sampling pies in 12 Midwest states.
I dutifully went from town to town, eating gooey, sugary slices of one of my worst vices for lunch: Chocolate Peanut Butter. Lemon Meringue. Pumpkin Supreme. It was a childhood fantasy fulfilled! I'd gladly return to the scenes of my crimes any day for another orgy of guilty, pie-eating pleasures. Betty's Pies in Two Harbors, Minnesota, on Lake Superior's North Shore, with crusts made with lard and fillings that are-well-filling. Or the Norske Nook, a legendary pie palace located in tiny Osseo in west-central Wisconsin-Sin City to many a defeated dieter!
- Editor-in-Chief Dan Kaercher Gained 10 1/2 Pounds While Living This Culinary Dream
Pampered Pets and More Guilty Pleasures
A man who loves spas
I admit it. I like spas-the high-end day spas with treatments that sound like fancy menu entrees. And there's more. These places are filled with two of my favorite things: amazing conversation and gorgeous women wearing only towels. Even though I really can't afford them, spa treatments are the gateway to my guilt.
I like hanging out in the "relaxation room" wrapped in a deliciously comfortable robe, waiting to be massaged, clipped, packed in mud, covered with hot rocks-whatever. And, maybe because I'm often the only man there, women tell me intimate details of their lives.
I get more juicy tidbits over smoothies and watercress than I ever hear at my local watering hole over beer nuts. Plus, there's Misha, the masseuse who can rub my feet without making me giggle. Or Natasha, a manicurist with an evil way of giving backhanded compliments: "You have such hairy chest, and look! Such leeetle hands." I've never heard my bar buddies say that.
- Contributing Writer Steve Slack is Saving Up for Another Treatment
My dogs wear faux suede. Not always, mind you. Mainly during winter, when the temperatures drop and the fleece lining helps hold body heat. It's about comfort and fashion, you know. In spring, they wear lighter-weight nylon, and in summer, we move on to personalized bandannas color-coordinated to match the leashes.
This all started innocently. When planning a weekend at a lake, I wasn't sure if our poodle, Devin, or our Welsh terrier, Jett, could swim. So we bought them life jackets, just to be safe. This led to much more. Next came the bandannas and a leather Harley-Davidson cap. Halloween costumes. (Devin was a bumblebee; Jett, a devil.) Christmas stockings. Every birthday, a pupcake run to Three Dog Bakery. And recently, an hour in a heated, dog-exclusive indoor pool in Janesville, Wisconsin. Of course, they wore their life jackets.
- Contributing Editor Lisa Schumacher is Eagerly Anticipating Spring Fashions
Bad-for-you food binge
Before me beckons a heap of badness-the kind that makes my doctor shake his head before turning to my charts and striking two years off my life expectancy. This badness is called the Magic Mountain, and everyone-really, everyone-should know better. But sometimes, I just can't resist stopping at Ross' Cafe in Bettendorf, Iowa, a family-owned classic (since 1944) that serves plate-loads of culinary no-nos. Think ground beef and fries piled high (121/4 inches edge to edge!) atop French toast that may never get unearthed. Top it with a slush of melted cheese and "snow" (chopped onions). That's the $6.30 Magic Mountain. Or, if you're going to commit the act, why not add some chili (The Volcano). It's worth two years.
- Executive Editor Greg Philby Really Hopes His Doctor Won't Read This
Sneaking a snack
It's midnight, my family is asleep, and I'm eating their morels. Now, before you rush to judgment, you need to understand that these are fresh morels. Plus, I was the one who acquired them. When I found out my sister had gone morel-mushroom hunting near Dubuque, Iowa, it took persistent questions from me ("Are you getting many?" "How do they look this year?") before she finally relented. Yes, she said, I could have a small bag.
Well, then, it really was too late to fix them for dinner. Plus, morels aren't the right accompaniment for casserole, are they? And there weren't enough to go around. So that's how I find myself alone in the kitchen at midnight with a stick of butter, 12 washed morel mushrooms, cracker crumbs, a saute pan and a bottle of Chardonnay. With my family asleep, they don't even know what they're missing. Besides, they need their rest.
- Creative Director Geri Boesen Will Make no Promises About Sharing creme brulee or Fresh Tomatoes, Either